“It helps to understand that TOY don’t sleep”, the band’s previous label Heavenly Records tell us. Never a truer word was spoken about this intriguing southern quintet, who are hitting the road this month to promote the release of their fourth album Happy in the Hollow.
There’s something both nostalgic and contemporary about TOY’s sound. You can hear echoes of the late 1960s and 1980s, layered with lots of sonic experimentation, and it’s drawn quite the crowd down to Rough Trade tonight.
TOY are a mass of black clothes and sculptural haircuts as they emerge on stage. The three-way vocals of Tom Dougall, Maxim Barron and Charlie Salvidge have a soporific choral quality, heightened by Max Oscarnold’s haunting synths, which sweep their way through each song.
What ensues is a slick and spooky set: Mistake a Stranger is full of psychedelic pop energy, set against the backdrop of those determined howling synths. I am lulled into a state of drowsiness on measured and rhythmic Strangulation Day, with The Willo - a lengthy shoegaze voyage – punctuating the dream with some delightfully twangy guitar work from Dominic O’Dair. I drift in and out of TOY’s celestial soundscape throughout their performance, which is part of the joy – it marks the band’s customary dreamlike quality.
But all dreams must be awoken from, and as if by magic, all hell breaks loose as Sequence One reaches a jolting crescendo. TOY unapologetically play with your senses and perceptions, with varying results. At times it is dizzying and disorientating, but at their best, they yield bountiful shadowy thrills.
TOY played Rough Trade Nottingham on Wednesday 30 January 2019