Album Review: Toe – Hear You

Toe Hear You cover

It has been a great year for post-rock. Wellington has recently been visited by some greats like This Will Destroy You, sleepmakeswaves and Mogwai. And some brilliant albums have been released by bands from all ends of the spectrum worldwide.

The latest such release is Hear You, the third studio full length from Japanese rockers Toe.

Although I would classify Hear You as post-rock, it isn’t a strictly instrumental album. In fact, many of the songs include singing, like the tracks ‘Commit Ballad’ and ‘Song Silly’. Some songs are softly cooed, some are rapped. There are both male and female singers, making the sound all the more diverse. The singing is also predominantly Japanese, but I think I can identify English in “Song Silly”.

This first half of the album sounds like one big song that slowly evolves. The second half is where things begin to mix up. ‘Time Goes’ actually sound more like rapping than singing, backed by some funky guitar, bass, and organ. The next song, ‘オトトタイミングキミト’ follows up with the hip-hop feel, this time with jazzy piano parts.

The crisp drumming throughout the album is standout. In fact, the busy drumming during breakdown in “A Desert of Human” is probably the best moment on the entire album. At times drummer Kashikura Takashiit hangs back, waiting. But when the time comes his playing is urgent and hurried, adding pace and filling the emptiness in a tasteful way. He plays around the timing with drags and shuffles, and makes the most of space with varied rolls, fills and flourishes. There is a very math-rock approach, adding colour and vibrancy to some otherwise straightforward sounding songs.

Hear You has a clean, cohesive sound that is soothing but engaging. It is predominantly percussion driven, with jangly picking and light strumming from the guitars. That said, even though there is a ongoing sound saturating the album, it is also incredibly experimental and subtly diverse. Take the track ‘G.O.O.D L.U.C.K’, for example. It contains tabla drumming, whining Kanye autotune sounds and cheerleader chanting. And somehow it all works in together. There are so many intricacies and subtle layers that only reveal themselves on repeat listens. It’s a short album – the 11 songs only add up to 40 minutes of material – but it’s a case of quality over quantity.

Hear You may be shortbut it’s so good that you’ll likely find yourself listening to it on repeat anyway.

Joseph James

Album Review: Platonick Dive – Overflow


As much as I love post-rock and associated instrumental music, I seldom venture into digital based music. I’m a purist that likes to listen to music played on instruments instead of computers. I know that some post-rock bands and lots of hip-hop artists I listen to are quite sample heavy, but I always prefer live instrumentation. For example, I’ve enjoyed seeing some hip-hop bands like The Roots and David Dallas (with his backing band The Daylight Robbery) far more than seeing other rappers that have DJs or backing tracks.

Maybe I need to get with the times. Many of New Zealand’s major current music exports (Kimbra, Lorde, Broods, Brooke Fraser) are all headed in that direction, but I’m not really interested most of that stuff.

So when I listened to Overflow, the forthcoming album from Italian four piece Platonick Dive, my opinion was quite divided. A lot of it sounds like 65daysofstatic to me – post-rock with a heavy electronic element. I don’t mind music like that, but it’s certainly not my preference. That said, sections of Overflow were really striking and caught my attention.

platonick dive promo 1

I’ve previously listened to the song “Træ” from Platonick Dive that featured on a Nothing But Hope and Passion compilation. This was off Platonick Dive’s first album “Therapeutic Portrait”. I liked the song but it isn’t a fair introduction to Overflow, because the second album is a change of direction for the band. This is a deliberate move. “We are in a continuous artistic movement”, their press release says, “the most dangerous thing you can do is to stay still”. This is a band that is ever changing, and always experimenting. Trying to push the envelope is one thing, but does it make the music convoluted when it’s heading in too many directions?

Not really. There is a lot of influences at play here, but it seems to work. The album is well produced. Parts reminds me of one of Platonick Dives’ contemporaries – electro/ambient outfit worriedaboutsatan. The music is crisp, deliberate, moody. And plenty of it is clearly electronic. The track “From Seattle To Berlin” is full of glitches and DJ style scratches, a feel that continues throughout the album.

The instrumentation is interesting. I am a drummer, so of course the excellent drumming and percussion stood out to me. Keyboards are quite dominant. There are all sorts of other sounds and instruments utilised, many of which come from a computer. I quite liked the part in “High Tide” that sounded like marimba or xylophone.

Some songs feature singing. The vocals on “Mirror” especially stood out to me. For a predominantly instrumental band, I suggest they have a serious rethink about their style. Hiding a voice as good as that is wasteful.

And of course the album includes the obligatory samples, like Maybeshewill would use in their early material. “Geometric Lace” features a sample about marijuana, and “Back Home Boulevard”  includes a quote about junkies, so I think it’s fair to say drugs influence the band in some way.

I feel like I’m a bit out of my element here because although it’s similar to some music I listen to, it’s at the same time quite different. I could allude to genres like electronica, trip-hop, dubstep, house… but I’m really not an authority on those matters. If I had to describe the songs “Above You” and “Reverb Nation” I’d have to use the phrase “beep boop boop”. Platonick Dive’s Facebook page categorises their genre as “Electronic Therapy With Feedback Explosions”, so I guess “beep boop boop BOOOOOM” would be more apt.

This is an album that I would expect to hear in a café. Background music that is a bit unusual and ‘arty’, but not something I’d chose to listen to at home. It is well crafted, and I enjoy parts of it, but I think at the end of the day I still prefer to listen to music that is actually played by people, more so than computers.

If you like post-rock and you’re not as uptight as I am about music being ‘real’ or ‘live’, then I’m sure you will enjoy Overflow.

Overflow releases on February 17th 2015

EP Review: The Occupants – Hindsight

Occupants Hindsight EP signed

It’s not often these days that I’ll buy a physical CD. I don’t even have a CD player that works, just a CD drive on my computer. But in this case, CD was the only option. No vinyl, no digital download. I liked the two tracks that I’d already heard online, so I ordered the new Occupants CD.

Brothers Luke and Flynn Gower have teamed up with Leigh Davies to form The Occupants, an indie/electro/rock project that has arisen from the ashes of Cog and Sleep Parade.

Cog and Sleep Parade were major players in the Australian prog-rock scene, along with the likes of Karnivool, Butterfly Effect and Dead Letter Circus. The prog elements are still present with The Occupants, but there is more of an indie vibe than hard rock. Two tracks are over eight minutes long, and all the songs are epic, sprawling beauties. And Flynn Gower’s recognisably haunting high vocals still permeate the music.

The EP version of first track “Hindsight” is almost twice as long as the single version that was initially released. The song could easily be far shorter and still sound complete, but the way it cycles and builds, spaced out with brooding bridges – it all adds to the experience.

“Streets” is carried by fast percussion and noodling guitars. This track showcases exactly why Flynn Gower’s voice is so vital for the band. His vocals are the highlight of the track. They range from deep to almost-falsetto, laden with hooks and ear-worms.

“Wonderland” is more melancholic, built on a repeated mantra. The song features an eclectic range of instruments. Electric drums and synths make give a drum and bass feel at times, and a banjo solo leads into extended instrumental progressions.

To start with, début single “I’ve Been Thinking” could almost pass for an old Genesis song. Phil Collins is channeled through the drums and vocals, but without the dated 80’s feel. This doesn’t last throughout the whole song, but the ‘power-toms’ drumming and the chirpy keyboard features here and there.

Hindsight is sublime. I’ve been listening to it every day since it arrived in the mail. It’s not heavy or soft, just a delicate blend of melodies and riffs. There are so many layered subtle parts that new details begin to shine through with each listen, like the usage of horns and banjo. The vocals are the highlight for me, with Flynn’s voice being used as an extra instrument to dominate the high-end. They echo and soar, planting the melody firmly in my brain. Hindsight may only have four tracks, but it provides half an hour of brilliantly crafted music that leaves me wanting more.

Despite having already stated that I have no CD player, I think it was a good move buying this EP. There’s an element of exclusivity, not because I got a signed copy, but more because this EP shows so much promise. I feel like I’m let in on a secret, owning the first release from a band that clearly has bright futures ahead. Although Cog were a fairly notable band, they never got much attention here in New Zealand. I wonder if this new project will garner different results.

Joseph James