Here at The Ark, we’re no strangers to the music of ex-pat Harley Toberman. Sending us his work from paradise in his Costa Rica studio, we’ve had the pleasure of reviewing his albums Paraphernalia and Coming Attractions in recent years, released under his artist name Toby Tune. We were thrilled to find ourselves listening to yet another composition from one of our favorites.
We’ve often found ourselves describing Toby’s music as compelling, with a range of variety and contrast that paints a complete picture that’s good for the soul. With Introspection, there is no deviance from this norm. Toby’s newest release is a gorgeous collection of exotic and brilliant compositions that allows the listener to add their own stories – because as usual, this is a strictly instrumental project.
The album opens with Introspection, and we’re greeted with haunting female vocals over a delicate guitar. The track builds slowly, adding punchy keys, then light percussion, and then strings (to great dramatic effect). We especially liked the break at 1:39 to bring back the vocals, but this time layered with complex harmonies.
The timbre and tempo of Cantina can be best described as infectious. Upbeat and toe-tapping with a great driving beat that makes dancing seem like the obvious choice. The song progresses gently but firmly and without any crazy build-up, just prancing along with its array of buzzy and sparkling synths and ever-present catchy bassline.
True to its name, Funk Me starts with a spacey, 70’s-vibe rhythm guitar. This is quickly joined by a lead guitar of the same persuasion, as well as equally funky percussion. At 1:06, the lead guitar is replaced by strings, which overlaid on the psychedelic rhythm guitar makes for an interesting and welcome combination.
Homestay starts out with guitar picking that is just a touch melancholy, and a somber melody to accompany it. At 1:12, the sadness slips away and is replaced by a more optimistic tune, carried by a bright, string-like synth. At 1:46 we go back the other way and return to something darker, accented by echoing the melody from the beginning. You can feel the story ark in this song – no lyrics required.
OUR FAVORITE TRACK…
Positive Approach starts out differently than one might expect based on the name. Deep, dark strings carry us into fast-paced, urgent percussion among a smattering of otherworldly effects. As the song builds, the strings that enter carry us closer and closer to something familiar, only to pull it away again – for example, at 1:12 we’re abruptly dropped into the territory of light, fast-paced synths interlaced with spacey effects, and overlaid by delicate keys. This song feels like a journey from start to finish – like a triumphant climb up a dangerous mountain – and the last note leaves us wondering what’s coming next.
Another track true to its name, Good Times has the energy and swagger that you’d want for a casual night on the town, or maybe cruising the hills in a fast car. The horns carrying the main melody are smooth and inviting contrast nicely with the percussion that at times verges on a pop beat. The result is a number that’s uptempo and fun without sounding insincere. Plus, the main melody is a catchy little earworm that you probably won’t be able to get out of your head.
It’s always a pleasure reviewing work from Toby Tune. Weaving intricate stories without words through mastery of musical composition is a skill not many can claim. But these songs feel like soundtracks – they’re complex, genuine, soulful works that truly showcase the incredibly wide range of Toby’s skills. We’ve only just finished listening to this one, and we already can’t wait for the next. But until then, check out Introspection below:
BELOW: Listen to his album Introspection and connect with his website and social media platforms. Please support Toby Tune by visiting him online, and playing, downloading, and/or purchasing his music, or attending a live show! And, as always, thank you for supporting real music!
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