Three years after its original founding, TOKiMONSTA’s Young Art label is exactly what it sounds like: fresh, vibrant, colorful. The bold thrive, fingerpainting with soul, future funk, and electropop, and it’s clear that Young Art is serving an important purpose in nurturing and giving a stage to a talented and fearlessly creative crop of producers. Compilation Young Art Sound is a brilliant showcase of what the Young Art crew can do. It’s an ultra hip gallery of captivating canvasses, each artist on the same wavelength, but with their distinct styles. What’s more, Anderson Paak is here. Gallery openings don’t get much better than that.
The album opens with CRi’s “Oda”, a spherical track that bounces bass-heavy loops between thrilling heights and irresistible depths. It’s a wind tunnel of otherworldly sounds, in-your-face with a compelling gravity to it, and the way CRi plays with echoes makes a five-minute song feel like an ocean of space, vast and almost endless (he does it again later on, with house-influenced “Why I Love You”). “Oda” is a bombshell opener, a titanic portal to the tracks that follow, which, while warmer and with more obvious human touches, are similarly focused on filling the Young Art label with slick and stimulating electronic beats.
Easily the seat-filling star of the show is TOKiMONSTA herself, whose collaboration with Anderson Paak and KRANE, “Put It Down”, appears twice on the album, once remixed by Exile and once as an instrumental. It’s still fresh from last year’s mini-album Fovere, a familiar treat for the TOKiMONSTA fans likely to be listening as well as a good way to draw in a new audience who might recognize Anderson Paak from any of his many recent projects or performances. The instrumental version doesn’t seem quite as necessary as the remix; without the voice, the composition isn’t quite as strong, and it’s clear that something is missing once the intro has passed. The opening string sounds are still interesting, though, and fast beats make it into decent background noise. Parts of the instrumental have even made it into an iPhone commercial, so there’s no question that it has its place—just not necessarily three songs after the full version.
She may have the name recognition, but TOKiMONSTA is far from being the only artist worth hearing on the compilation she’s curated. Longtime TOKiMONSTA collaborator Gavin Turek channels a space-age Donna Summer on Stranger’s crystal-coated dance remix of sultry “Surrender”, still seductive but with a glamorous nu-disco spin. Meanwhile, Jesse Boykins III and Two Fresh usher in the soul on “Live Love”, a slow, heartbreaking swirl of R&B and chillout music, and Mike Gao’s “Ivory” is a rich, soothing combination of synths and saxophones.
Sharper edges show, too, on tracks like GICHII and Soslo’s trap-spirited “Lazers” and Mono/Poly’s ominous “Intergalactic”. The Beat Ventriloquists remix Wear Patterns’ “Undone” into a particularly challenging video game boss battle theme, and Rush Midnight’s silky vocals add a sensual layer to the cut.
Two slower standouts—a l l i e’s “Wildcat” and Josh One’s “Further”—offer more powerful punches of emotion to the mix, anchoring the album at both ends. “Wildcat” is a personal ballad, an ode to recovery and struggling to find a sense of self in the face of depression, anxiety, and put-downs, and it serves as a dose of heartfelt reality in the midst of shining alien funk. “Further” has a more eclectic groove to it; Josh One takes cues from retro Baroque pop and trip hop alike as he sculpts a towering work of its own species to carry vocals by Eighty to the heavens.
There isn’t a weak link anywhere among the Young Art crew. TOKiMONSTA clearly has a finely honed ear not only for her music, but for the music of her friends and colleagues, as well, and Young Art Sound is a peek into the world they’ve only begun to construct together. Each member of the team is a promising artist with a strong individual vibe, and to hear them all together bodes well for the future of their label. This team is an explosion and one that’s only just begun.
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