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Toska - Ode To The Author album art

Ode To The Author

27th February 2016 – Self-release

01. Chalk Teeth
02. Chasm
03. Phoneme
04. Illumo
05. Anthropocene
06. Infantile

To start with a bit of a confession, as a general rule I don’t pay a tremendous amount of attention to album art – but every so often a new release is accompanied by a piece of artwork that almost perfectly represents its contents. Instrumental trio Toska‘s debut EP, Ode To The Author, is one of those releases.

The art gracing the cover of this release depicts a top-down cross-section of a (probably) human brain. The right side is as precisely ordered as a circuit board, while the left is more chaotically organic – and, as we shall see, this could not be more appropriate.

Toska have managed to concoct a sound that combines plenty of clever strokey-beard technical acrobatics, but then deploys them with the same relaxed looseness of a garage band having just picking up their instruments and having a jam in…well, in their garage. This trio are obviously no slouches at their respective crafts, and they can also be found in action as three quarters of Rob Chapman’s Dorje, so Toska may well be an outlet for them to let their hair down a bit. Or a bit further, anyway.

The results are powerfully immediate, and Toska have already been turning heads by showing up unassumingly on the live circuit and casually blowing everyone’s socks off. Opener “Chalk Teeth” wastes no time in getting down to business, launching straight into a whacking great, dirty groove of a riff, effortlessly punctuated with deftly executed little tech-friendly flourishes.

Throughout, there’s a noticeably nineties feel to the riffs on display, seeming to draw more from Undertow-era Tool, Alice In Chains or even The Melvins than from cleaner, more precise prog that is the more standard fair. Perhaps coming across like Heights‘ more boisterous younger brothers, rather than fitting neatly into a progressive or technical metal classification, are more like ‘stunt grunge’, should such a thing exist. Let’s say it does now, shall we?

This distinctive sound helps Toska to sidestep the pitfalls faced by many instrumental bands – be they the alarmingly swift onset of deja vu for the more riff-based outfits, or the cold and clinical vibe of their more technical counterparts. They may also have done themselves a favour by limiting this initial release to just six songs – including two shorter interludes that keep the run-time around the half-hour mark despite another two tracks reaching eight and ten minute durations respectively.

The tracks twist and turn through complex, yet perfectly natural structures, winding their way from spacious atmospherics to satisfyingly meaty heavy sections and back again. “Chasm” has a distinctly King For A Day… Fool For A Lifetime-era Faith No More feel to it, whilst “Infantile” is a proper sonic adventure which only feels half as long as it really is, which is no mean feat without vocals.

All told, Ode To The Author is a startlingly mature debut release, and one that perfectly captures Toska’s electric live performance; immediately enjoyable, but with enough depth to continue to rewarding repeated listens. What’s more, it’s a timely reminder that technicality and groove can peacefully co-exist with a bit of skill and imagination, and Toska clearly have shovelfuls of both of those qualities. Great stuff.

Ode To The Author is available to download on a pay-what-you-like basis from Toska’s Bandcamp: