I’ll admit Toaster’s "Theophany" was not what I expected. I thought I would hear his rather abstract big-sound, techno-inspired electronica ... I didn't ... I don't.
"Theophany" is different because it is more about restraint. His techno-inspired electronic sound is definitely there but in a more relaxed, more ambient setting ... and I, for one, cannot get enough. I've always loved Toaster’s work but "Theophany" is now my new favourite release from him.
The opener - "From the coast, we travelled east" - is a restrained ambient techno number ... layers of synths underpinned by a delightfully driving beat ... with a sample at the end which could be birdsong or could be from the game "Abe’s Odyssey".
"Eventually, we reached the desert" has a slightly chaotic feel to it ... more abstract than the first track. It has an Eastern feel to it through the percussion and instrumentation used that gives it a warmth in keeping with the track’s title.
The third track - "We set up camp, and got drunk" - brings us back to a more ambient form. It retains Toaster’s abstract nature ... easily marked by the weird vocal samples he uses. However, when the percussion kicks in this could be a long-lost Boards of Canada track ... and I love it.
"When we woke up we realised we were lost" is a deliciously somber ambient piece ... one that ebbs and flows nicely and provides a small measure of respite as well as preparing the user for what is to come.
"Night fell. We saw a light in the distance and we walked towards it" follows suit but with the addition of percussion. The synths soar majestically giving the track a decidedly euphoric feel.
The title track - "Theophany" - is the focal point of this album ... and it is a sizeable focal point at that - it clocks in at 29mins in duration. It starts off very low key and languid, with long chords punctuated by sounds that mirror birdsong. It then follows this theme for the rest of the track. The thing is ... Toaster could have released this track on its own ... it's that good. An utterly delightful slice of long-form ambient goodness that I thoroughly enjoyed.
From there the album kind of goes off into more abstract territory again. It's as if Toaster has made his point and now is free to go mental. I, for one, love this unpredictability.
"We made it back to the coast" uses low ominous drones, field recordings and vocal samples to make something very eery indeed. It sits at 14 mins in duration and says a considerable amount in this time. The dissonant crescendo around the 3 mins mark is definitely an interesting moment. When it shifts to a full on field recording around the 4:30 mins mark it gets weird. It's as if he's left his recorder on while he went to get something out of his VW Campervan and liked it the result upon playback. It is strange but yet compelling. I'm not sure if it is completely unnecessary ... especially due to my love of the chatter of budgies, which appear briefly. I'm not a fan of field recordings like this but somehow I found it compelling. I couldn't press forward.
"Theophany" then ends with "We mourned the dead, and drew comfort from God" which opens with deep, dark synths and a sound like the blowing of the wind. It fits perfectly as the antithesis of the ending of the previous track. It then stays on this course for the remainder of the track. Fading out to silence at the end.
"Theophany" by Toaster is an interesting and varied proposition. One that bamboozled me at times as well as entertaining me. It is a release I thoroughly enjoyed and welcome it as an excellent addition to both Toaster’s body-of-work.
It's not an easy listen (not as a result of Warren Daly's excellent Mastering) but then that's the joy of Toaster's work. He challenges you & on "Theophany" I'm glad he did. I will happily go on record as saying this is his best work to date and I look forward to his future.