The late German pianist turned Romantic composer Robert Schumann was once quoted as saying “Talent works, genius creates”. Enduring and astute wordplay from a figure whose been deceased for nearly two centuries and timeless when associated with composers of our age. Rick Rubin, Marley Marl and DJ Premier are some of the figures synonymous with building crossover appeal through pioneering sampling techniques and integrating hip-hop into the popular consciousness.
Jennifer Lee a.k.a TOKiMONSTA is a born and bred LA native, described as “the first lady of Brainfeeder” – the burgeoning west coast music label spearheaded by the progressive head honcho Flying Lotus. Having received props from former Radio 1 host Mary Anne Hobbs, her output is founded on a classical base intertwined with soul, motown and love of folk music from her parent’s country of birth – Korea, formulate a vintage and progressive deluge.
2010’s Midnight Menu had a gluttonous ridden carte du jour filled with titles such as ’Lucid Waking’ and ‘Solitary Joy’ that momentarily harked to the nocturnal vibe. Released on Brainfeeder, Creature Dreams is the title of her first release in 2011 and is a great deal more of a personal batch than previous harvests. A penchant for foregoing sleep (she produces the magic from 2am until 7am in the morning… not that kind of enchantment) and crafting melodies of a soul sonic disposition has crafted a 7 track assortment skilled in the sluggish bounce boogie and demure ooze.
Lee begins the afterhours assortment in a languorous air with mechanical hums and bending pads on ‘Fallen Arches’. A clement opener complimented by a resonant shrill; acoustic strums and intergalactic synth zips. Creature Dreams maybe bereft of a vast cameo ensemble but on ‘Little Pleasures’ fellow City Of Angels resident Gavin Turek flatters the warped ambience with breathy Sade-esque vocals that compliment slowburning claps and crisp thuds. ‘Bright Shadows’ is a sunkissed tropical house melody showered with rising subbass which adds depth to the ear passage.
TOKiMONSTA stated in an interview that the core impetus behind her divergent production was that “We come from a generation with a low attention span. I can’t just listen to the same shit all the time”. The lexicon of a measured artist true to her inventory. ‘Moving Forward’ and ‘Stigmatizing Sex’ are instrumentals that are rooted in the hip hop aesthetic, yet Lee’s ethic administers grit and substance which borrows from 60s Psychedelia and Shoegaze. The former shrouded in thudding drums; loose drones and oscillating sprinkles of shimmering subbass akin to Deadringer era Rjd2 add a retro value. Whilst, the latter meanders around a minimal piano sample with a terse backbeat and echoic soundscapes. Sonic textures and layers of the analogue become one.
The initial harp refrain and languid bongo drums on ‘Darkest (Dim)’ recalls early Neptunes but has a Balearic quality which is cemented in the left-field. As the track saunters to it’s denouement the sleek Turek asserts, “Peace in the darkness.” Ronseal like lyricism, though this exudes precise serenity and grasps visions in the respite of the night. Final cut ‘Day Job’ is built on cosmic foundations anticipating the ascension of the sun. Distorted synth snippets and sanguine strings replicate chirps at daybreak before TOKiMONSTA’s affection for bossa nova provides a serendipitous but pleasant close.
An enviable Tardis of unsullied beats and samples from yesteryear have hallmarks of Pete Rock and J Dilla. However, TOKiMONSTA ensures Creature Dreams is experimental (as her bibliography may deceive) with influences from rock, r’n’b and house making for an engaging listen that should go beyond the peripheries of the headphone.