As a child I owned a kaleidoscope. I don’t remember where it came from, only that is was old and belonged to another time. At the end of its solid tin tube, sequins twinkled, a diamond-crusted flower shone bright and as you turned the plastic collar, the rainbow crystals would fall so that any shape was lost with each turn. Then magically, the flakes would reassemble into a brand new and delightful pattern. I tell you all this so that when I describe TOY as a kaleidoscopic, psychedelic krautrock band you know what I am talking about and don’t dismiss it as another lazy cliché.
The guitars are the axis on which TOY‘s wild sonic colours spin. They sometimes are angular and aggressive, other times they are screeching and explosive – and oh those baselines, they have never been catchier and more spectacular – whilst synths, intricate drums, organs and Tom Dougall’s vocals reform into surprising patterns around them.
Join the Dots opens with the all instrumental piece Conducter. It emerges from the speakers like a new dawn. Pricks of first light pierce a rolling mist, evocatively cooed into existence by soft and slow ambient keys paired with sporadic guitar work. Then, without warning, the song collapses under the weight of its own instability, only to explode back into the listener’s face. The kaleidoscope turns again.
This was just the warm-up to clean your head and prepare you for the nostalgic, yet smacking madness that is the rest of the album. It’s a fluid beast, this longplayer, shifting from the wacky worming and distant vocals of Left To Wander to the gentle synths of As We Turn to the clattering jangle of Too Far Gone To Know. Join The Dots truly creates images that remind of a technicolor tapestry, with myriad colour and texture in each track, which make it far too easy to lose track of the vast number of components streaming through your head.
But never will it sound like aimless nonsense. No, there’s quite a deal of structure here. A bit krautrock, psychedelia, nostalgia but always a riot. Suffice to say, though, that Join The Dots is a glorious, ordered mess with a lot of charm that you’ve just got to hear to believe. Following a record as blazingly bold as their debut was always going to be a tough task, but TOY didn’t need very long to bring forth a truly worthy follower. It became a record that is informed and instructed by their musical past, but also one that feels very much alive and at home in the here and now. It is an album that seems to grow and unveil new textures upon every new listen – much like a kaleidoscope – to the point where it doesn’t just feel like a relief to have them back so soon, it feels more like a necessity.