Tokimonsta - Creature Dreams Album Review
It may well be a clichÃ©, but we here at Contact Music believe that the world is divided into two groups of people: those who have heard and been fascinated by the music of Steven "Flying Lotus" Ellison, and those who at some point in the future will be. If you're in the latter party, Flying Lotus' eponymous 2009 debut and last year's sophomore release Cosmogramma look certain to do for electronic music in this century what Boards of Canada's Music Has The Right To Children did in the last; both have reinterpreted the form into something cathartic and visionary.
From California, Ellison has also been rapidly building a stable of like minded artists and producers via both the legendary LA club night Low End Theory and his Brainfeeder label, home to the likes of Daedelus and The Gaslamp Killer along with Jennifer Lee, who sometimes goes by the alias of Tokimonsta.
From the wealthy middle class LA suburb of Torrance and of Korean/American parents, Lee perhaps made an unlikely teenage convert to the likes of Mos Def, Snoop and Wu-Tang, but after post-graduate work in various on stage DJ battles, she eventually joined a cabal which is rapidly gathering kudos as one of the most inventive mind-shops in the world. Last year her debut album Midnight Menu was released last year on fledgling Japanese offshoot label Listen Up, but with Creature Dreams she returns to the Brainfeeder stable, and were that it was ever in doubt, she continues to find spaces that seem wide open and claustrophobic at the same time.
It would be pretty straightforward to describe much of Lee's output as at the avant garde end of pop, a glitchy version of The Bird And The Bee, or a twenty first century take on Julee Cruise. Opener Bright Shadows for instance echoes the blissfull chillwave noise of Washed Out, it's tempo drifting like an offshore breeze as a hypnotic break plays out amongst the reeds. This sense of ecstatic, untroubled harmonic perfection shimmers equally in Little Pleasures, enveloped in much cloud-like ambience as a gentle acoustic guitar complements the much repeated closing refrain "Peace in the dark".
Straightforward it may be to write Lee off as a scenester contemporary of Chaz Bundick, in reality however as Lee freely admits, there is no signature Tokimonsta sound, as elements of hip-hop, electronica and dubstep and all continually sweep in and out of focus. Day Job reveals this darker side, propelled by a clinical sense of urgency and full of maverick bleeps and whistles which make it sound like the LSO are rehearsing in an R2D2 factory. Moving Forward instead is driven by a towering snare break, whilst trilling otherworldly frequencies and white noise fill the ether in the style of DJ Shadow. Both are more beat centric examples of Tokimonsta's less playful side - an alter ego obsessed with thunder and a city's after hours psychosis.
The world remains divided then, but you should be moving from one camp to the other, and we recommend that you do it soon, and use Creature Dreams as your induction into the Brainfeeder world.