TOKiMONSTA TOKiMONSTAMidnight Menu
Lovers of absurd factoids may tell you that TOKiMONSTA had the honour of being the first woman to set foot in the Brainfeeder offices. Lovers of electronic caviar say that Jennifer Lee’s talent is no joke. Neither one is mistaken. Mary Anne Hobbs and Flying Lotus have already shown us the magic, and who could be better sponsors? Don’t anybody be fooled by that stuff about love at first sight. Behind her delicious red nerd glasses lurks a creative energy so overwhelming that it could bring back Stevie Wonder’s sight and return the captain’s armband to John Terry (that is to say, work miracles). The very interesting embroidery on the wonky style of the EP “Cosmic Intoxication”, asymmetrical and 3-D, have already become filigrees of astral haute couture. Few beatmakers manage to get their doctorates and find their self-confidence so quickly in the wide space field of hip hop without voices: “Midnight Menu”, put out by the Japanese label Art Union Recordings, is one of the best debut LPs of the year, without a doubt.
Ensconced behind the powerful magnetic field of Planet Los Angeles, the very young Jennifer Lee moves with incredible confidence in the land of futuristic abstraction and black groove. She has the creative nerve of the new Californian instrumental hip hop, but she manages to escape from the clutches of the gravity of that scene, where she has trained in a style that slips through the fingers of pigeonholers. Cosmic electronic, experimental jazz, Japanese electronic pop, emo-wonky, crepuscular hip hop, opiate funk: TOKiMONSTA manages to raise a unique wall of digital sound that is easily discernible as hers, despite the variety of the songbook. She regurgitates the lessons of Flying Lotus, Dimlite , and such, also adding an astounding melodic component and evocative charge to the caldron in some cuts: there are the ethereal melodies of “Questing” –Boards Of Canada are too small– or the distant guitars, lost in the vacuum of outer space, of “Lovely Soul”, an impressive lesson in wintry broken beat. There is also a nocturnal quality and jazz club nostalgia. The trumpets and snapping fingers in “Bready Soul” leave you beat. Not to mention the orchestral samples, the breakbeat, and the sad strains of “Gamble”: nostalgia in the MPC for the very finest palates. And that delicious “dilla-esque” elevator music for astronauts addicted to Prozac that is “Madness”? Sensitive material, which is not to say overly sentimental.
We could say that the album seeks to envelope moods, rather than cause them. In any case, TOKiMONSTA is not afraid of the dance floor. The worst thing about this –that’s how bad envy is– is that she also manages to set the standard high in the most celebratory, joking cuts. “Death by Disco”, with its tribal percussion, retro samples, and fits of cool jazz, seems to me like one of the hits of the year. Equally interesting are the minimalist spirals of space funk that she proposes in “Look-A-Like”. Of course, there is no lack of the latest hip hop psychedelics. In “Cheese Smoothie”, Lee makes it very clear that the basis of her training is that mixture of beats and digital tripping cooked up at the best West Coast barbecues. And it is so high-quality and versatile that even in the only song with vocal participation, she maintains the same level of features. What in 99% of instrumental albums is known as a “filler song with an unknown singer” is transformed here into high-flying cybernetic soul, thanks to the magnificent “Solitary”, with the rapacious vocal chords of Shuanise. I don’t think there is a single cut on this album that could be done without; I keep listening, and “Midnight Menu” seems to grow and grow endlessly in my headphones. It is a futuristic shower of soulful music that traps you in these days of summer boredom and summer nostalgia in the big city. Beat L.A.? No way, José. Óscar BrocTOKiMONSTA - Sa Mo Jung TOKiMONSTA - Lovely Soul