Hailing from Washington, DC, Andrew Toy is the kind of drummer who seems to enjoy exploring the tonal possibilities percussion has to offer. Throughout his Guardrails album, layers of percussive patterns interweave into complex arrangements so harmonious that the need for melody erodes into rhythmic bliss. The manner in which Toy electronically manipulates drum hits, scrapes, and vibrations to create tones that seem to sing with the same vibrancy as any synth is sublime – less percussive and more ambient, which adds to the primal energy of the album, howls and hums of bass lines and pads created from the same percussive thrust as the beats. For instance, the ascending arpeggios of “Daytime Raccoon” almost sound like what you’d hear in an airport terminal, seemingly following a melodic phrase of sorts and treated with some glitchy effects for texture. And yet, despite their prominence, they don’t drive the track, offering something like a hook, but the jazzy energy of the drums is the main star here. The same can be said of other tracks like “Man Frog” and “Disaster Pendulum,” while “Nusa” is almost like a tone poem, the sustained hums of metallic clangs and bass thumps ultimately creating a subdued atmosphere upon which a processional bell-like arpeggio melody appears, signifying… what? It ends before we find out. Similarly, the simplicity of “Surfacing” with its metallic scrapes wailing distantly amid a steady bellowing pulse seems to build to a state of heightened anxiety that eventually dissipates, leaving the listener in anticipation of something that never quite arrives. “Sneaking Suspicions” has an almost Peter Gabriel vibe as the pulsing ostinatos and passages of chiming electronic and organic tones resonate into a psychedelic haze, the drumming relaxed yet vibrant, although the following “Suspicion Confirmed” feels less like a reconciliation of where it was all leading and more like a different expression of the same level of tension. Of course, it’s cliche to use the word tribal when describing any project as percussively driven as this, but this writer would be remiss not to mention it as Toy’s drumming on Guardrails does possess that almost ritualistic quality about it, whether offering a straightforward backbeat or taking flight into different, almost lyrical phrases. Both in terms of its vitality and in its unique take on IDM, Guardrails a refreshing album.