As with all the greats of British indie-rock, Toy’s influences have always been proudly sleeve-worn. On one level, their achievement is to bridge from poppier heroes like Stereolab and Syd Barrett to long-form explorers like Television and Neu! — to straddle both the Ride of “Chelsea Girl,” and the Ride of “Birdman” — and to assimilate all these into a unique whole. On another, they’re the latest big noise in extra-cool outsider indie, picking up the baton of druggy, high-volume exploration and running with it gleefully into the abyss.
Their second album, Join The Dots, serves up a mind-bending 61-minute journey through consummately sequenced moments of trancey repetition and succinct pop melody, each equally ecstatic. The opening instrumental “Conductor” builds from an unsettling, near-John Carpenter-esque post-industrial ambience, into a quintessential Neu!-style motorik groove, pulsating with an ebb-and-flow of deliriously FX’d guitars.
These inaugural seven minutes are followed by a pair of tight, melodic nuggets — the Byrdsily chiming “You Won’t Be the Same,” and the hazily mid ’60s beat-y “As We Turn,” the latter descending into a murky, moody section only to re-ascend into another gleaming chorus. Such volatile dynamics are soon drawn out across the mesmerizing eight-minute title track, where, as per Tom Dougall’s sing-song vocal musing, Time itself almost seems to stand still, in the swirl of metronomic rhythm, droning synth and heavenward-reaching feedback guitars.
Apart from the usual psychedelic influences, they’ve added some of New Order’s stately synth-led majesty to the mix. And beyond that, they’ve developed a depth, intricacy and unpredictability to their sound, which transcends mere referencing. It’s just about a band firing on all cylinders, making new discoveries, writing their best songs so far. Where their debut Toy drifted away a little in its latter third, Join The Dots allows no space for filler — even the penultimate “Frozen Atmosphere” drills its ethereal tune into your skull with thrilling immediacy.
Come the mesmerizing 10-minute sound-labyrinth that is the closing “Fall Out of Love,” the mind boggles as to where this boldly-going quintet — all still in their mid-20′s — will go next. For now, though, Join The Dots is one hell of a trip.