To say cosmic five-piece TOY hit the ground running is an understatement.
Debut single "Left Them All Behind", cuts "Dead and Gone" from their self-titled debut, and "Too Far Gone to Know" and the shattering title track of their second album, 2012’s Join the Dots, showed a band unafraid to splatter flourishes of prog over their krautocky shoegaze canvas to jaw dropping effect.
Losing original synth player Alejandra Diez, a key contributor to their earlier material, resulted in a slight misstep with the third album, 2016’s Clear Shot; as they bedded in new keyboardist Max Oscarnold (also of The Proper Ornaments), his more direct, jagged playing contrasted sharply with the freeform style of Diez's performances on previous records.
Thankfully, that has proven to be a mere blip. Happy in The Hollow is their most satisfying work to date, doubly notable for its being the first record the band have produced themselves. Opener "Sequence One" showcases the metronomic stylings of Charlie Salvidge brilliantly, while bubbling arpeggios and liberal slashes of post-punk guitar accompany vocalist Tom Dougall’s stream-of-consciousness lyricism. A booming 4/4 is dropped slightly offbeat on top of the track in an apparent nod to the leftfield trickery of the producer of their first two albums, Dan Carey.
While Clear Shot was shorn of the idiosyncracies that endeared TOY to so many in the first place, HITH is crammed with ornamental flourishes that augment the music. "Mistake a Stranger" takes warm synths and adds cold and creeped out theremin sounds; the white knuckle punk fury of "Energy" has Dougall presenting smacked out verses as if reciting poetry, while the latter half incorporates John Cale influenced violin drone, all topped off with Salvidge’s inhuman percussion skills.
Overall, HITH is a mellow, exploratory affair, with drum machines, acoustic guitars and bottleneck slides being dreamily deployed at key moments to break up the Krautrock churn. It was clear after their previous album that TOY needed to shake things up a little - nothing drastic, just a slight reboot - and by doing so on Happy In The Hollow, they find themselves right back on track.