TOKiMONSTA has odd and beautiful dreams, apparently. Brace yourself, as she treats us to a musical retelling.
According to L.A. Weekly, Jennifer Lee (aka TOKiMONSTA) is Los Angeles' premier female dj. Which is nice.
The press release that accompanies the Creature Dreams EP states that Lee makes most of her music 'between two and seven in the morning'. Her mind, apparently, works 'in strange and mysterious ways' during these hours, and creates 'the soundtrack to the oddest, most beautiful dreams you've ever had'.
Alternatively, the press release might have stated that this is the time when the mind creates the most transparent and insipid 'homages' to UK indie and dance acts of the period 1987 – 1991, and that it would be best if you have really exciting dreams because the soundtrack doesn't provide much in the way of drama. As anyone who has ever used Twitter between nine and ten in the morning will attest, few things are more rice-puddingly dull than having people describe their dreams at length (even at 140 characters, it's dull). As the central concept of an electronica EP, it stinks of vanity publishing and the same naive egotism of every artist who ever decided to 'express myself'.
Atmosphere is lovely, but where's the confidence, the swagger, the boom? The EP limps along with swathes of watery synthwash which aren't really enlivened by its cheeky, glitchy beats. What is lacking is musicality, drama, groove, narrative.
The opening track, 'Fallen Arches' burbles along happily with a harpsichord motif, but goes nowhere, any direction lost in those synthwash chords. Too much texture. All it does is remind one of Massive Attack's 'Teardrop', but without Liz Frazer's vocal to pep it up. Unless it's a deliberate suggestion – The Cocteau Twins are mentioned in the press release. An odd reference to make, and a little unmerited. In this case it's applied to Gavin Turek's vocal on 'Darkest (Dim)'. Unfortunately, the track sounds nothing like The Cocteau Twins. What it actually sounds like is Little Dragon's 'No Love'.
What does sound like music from the shoegazing 80s is 'Day Job', which lifts a guitar sound and snare cracks almost directly from The Cure's 1987 album track 'The Kiss'. The reference is not mentioned anywhere, although in a 1987 interview with Smash Hits, Robert Smith did state that he wanted to sound like The Cocteau Twins, so perhaps a second-hand acknowledgement is enough.
'Moving Forward' is a sudsy sketch of glitchy textures like something that Graham Massey chose not to bother putting onto 'Ex:El', probably because they lacked a coherent groove or melodic structure. Neither groove nor melody are a prerequisite in electronica, but if they are to be eschewed, it needs to be in favour of a sonic experience that is unique and affecting. In this case, it's a case of layering on of preset sounds. The unfortunate part being that the pre-sets aren't necessarily the ones on the software being used, they are instead the presets that have lodged themselves in Jennifer Lee's mental musical lexicon.
'Stigmatizing Sex' is a more cultured effort at electronica than many; elegant even. Again though, it plays like an extended intro to a musical event that fails to happen. It's clever, and frilly, but where's the meat?
Gavin Turek's vocals on 'Little Pleasures' and 'Darkest (Dim)' are engaging, and both tracks stand out for the fact that they offer the listener a focus. Such is the function of a pop hook, and it's well-demonstrated here. Turek's brittle voice, or what we can hear of it through the layers of vocal comping and mild distortion, provides much of the drive that is missing elsewhere. Little Pleasures is a sweet summer pop chiller, 'Darkest (Dim)' is something similar, but suffers from it's vocal being treated more as a looped sample than as an evolving and developing facet of the song.
One problem with advances in sound manipulation technology is that it comes ever-closer to creating a seamless link between the musician's artistic vision, and the execution of that vision in the form of a recording. Sounds ideal, no? The problem is that there aren't many musicians whose artistic vision is all that interesting. As soundtracks to some visual drama, these would be ideal. As sonic backdrops to a piece of poetry, an exhibition of visuals, a game of croquet – perfect. As pieces of music in themselves, they are lacking.
Creature Dreams is released on NinjaTune/Brainfeeder May 1
The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance. – Aristotle