Following on from their brilliant 2016 EP “Ode to the Author” and the subsequent live version being released early last year, UK progressive instrumental trio Toska have issued their prodigious debut album “Fire by the Silos”. On it, the band has taken the signature sound cultivated on “Author” and refined it to an extreme, with each and every section of music arranged in a captivating way from wild volume and songwriting dynamics to a dense sense of constantly shifting rhythms, all without convoluting the listener.
The basis of the album is foundationed by pop formulas and by that design it makes it very simple for anyone to follow the songs whether they are accustomed to complex pieces or not. There is an overlying rhythm based architecture built on top of these foundations that takes heavy advantage of syncopation and polyrhythmic feel which lends greatly to a sense of losing yourself within the music in a way where you sit still, but the composition moves around you. It’s much like being inside an abstract atmosphere of emotion. Adorning this architecture is a varied use of melody, creative use of chord structure and an extensive variety of tonal effect employed on both Guitar and Bass.
It is near impossible to single out a stand out performance between guitarist Rabea Massad, bassist Dave Hollingworth and drummer Ben Minal. This is the greatest achievement of the album; they all play off each other in a way that has the greatest emotional impact and there’s never a moment where that focus lapses. The listener is, by extension, able to have a unique experience of their own with their own thoughts. Truly enabling the psyche of the individual to paint the backdrop of thought for the album without having one being predetermined.
The sound design is dense and employs a magnitude of well chosen elements. The guitars are always clearly defined even when being distorted hard and take on an assortment of gain types, delays, reverbs and effects. Bass takes on a very similar sonic character from butter-smooth to absolutely howling with wah laden distortion. Together they cooperate to deliver the greatest melodic impact and take turns in delivering the gentle touches and obsessive madness to the overall sound. Drums also express a wide range of variation and complement/cooperate with the string section. Tones are typically natural and the playing is VERY dynamic with some passages played with a feather touch and others with the force of a skyscraper demolition.
The most fascinating track is album closer “The Heard”. Unlike the rest of the album, it’s a 10 minute long soundscape of droning sound frequencies. This might sound pretty boring but in practice I think it was an excellent production decision. The album aims for maximum consistent focus and impact. You will get drawn into its world and very likely get lost in the emotional twists and turns along the way. After an extended period of being thrown about in a plethora of ways, I think it’s highly considerate of the band to have calculated the possible toll this could have on a person and choose to not leave them deal with the repercussions of such an experience. Instead, they offer this soundscape with the length of a recommended light meditation, 10 minutes, to give you a chance to come back to earth and allow the mind to become quiet.
“Fire by the Silos” is more than a mere album, it can be anything you want it to be. A collection of bangin’ tracks or a cathartic mental cleansing. It provides multiple tools for multiple purposes to a wide potential audience of listeners regardless of their connection to music. All it benevolently asks for is a chance for the listener to open up to themselves honestly.
Grab your copy of “Fire by the Silos” HERE!