Funny (funny weird, not funny ha ha) story: I reviewed True Bypass a couple of years ago for the405. It was a very good album, both relaxing and soothing. I sort of lost track of them. Flashforward and then I’m in Queens Social Road and the opening act for Low is an immense band called Sleepingdog. A few hours after the gig, the penny drops: that beautiful voice was none other than Chantal from True Bypass and those swelling atmospheres were created by motherflippin’ Adam from Stars of the lid!
Two bands, completely opposite in sound (loud versus quiet) but unified in a nostalgic bouquet that always lingers after the soundwaves have dissipated. Toby is the new album by True Bypass and if I needed to describe it is: the sound of heavy rain while you are in a cottage in the Peak District (let’s say somewhere near Lees Wood).
It’s not folk and it’s not the usual romantic music that people (unjustly) peg to any woman singing in sweet tones and slow strumming/arpeggio. There is a tenderness attached to Ms. Acda‘s voice, all stemming from Toby Litt‘s lyrics and masterfully accompanied by Craig Ward (the other 50% of True Bypass!) The tenderness could either be a call to longing (‘It isn’t true’) or a last plea of desperation (the stunning, heartbreaking ‘Would you’).
Although it’s a “quiet” album, it’s the little details that enhance the experience. There’s this bit in ‘What do you think the chances are’ when you can faintly hear children singing and clapping while they play in a distant playground that only exists in memories. The occasional moments of chamber pop added to the mix are always a pleasant surprise, but this is mostly a voice and guitar affair, with darker choices of arpeggios utilised to convey urgency and desperation (‘It isn’t true’, again, just gorgeous).
For all the slightly Autumnal tones the music of True Bypass creates, there are moments of true joy that might draw a sly smirk or a proper smile on you (depending on your mood). ‘Trappers’ feels like being a child again, with crayon drawings and seemingly endless walks in the woods being the order of the day. On the flipside, ‘I cried enough last night’ is pretty devastating, so, you take the good and the bad sides of the human psyche (love the mournful brass, though).
Toby seems to be a conceptual album. There’s child drawings everywhere in the booklet (remember those, yo? I miss them) and there seems to be an overlying theme of feeling quite hurt (“You didn’t tear my life in half / you just ripped off the face” – wow). Whatever emotions you get from True Bypass‘ Toby, they’ll probably be more blue-tinted than golden. Sometimes life is that way.
Words: Sam J. Valdés López