Jonti invites the listener on a magical sonic journey on an album of tunes that'll make you think and make you groove.
Sometimes, to find out who you are, you have to grab a flashlight and get under the hood. You have to root around, push and prod and see what's purring nicely and what's just about shot. When it comes to understanding oneself, this self-reflection can often necessitate you having to have some pretty difficult conversations and asking yourself some very searching questions. It may even lead to the acknowledgment of flaws you care not to admit, but ultimately, in theory, you'll come out the other side a more rounded human being. That is exactly what Sydney artist and producer, Jonti found himself doing on the making of his third album for Stones Throw, Tokorats.
Release Date: 3 Nov 2017
What Jonti originally conceived as a companion piece to his debut album, 2011's Twirligig became a complex and involved process that involved him scrapping the entire album and embarking on a five-year journey of self-discovery and examination to get it right. This may, of course, sound like a tortuous birth for the record but any growing pains or signs of struggle are absent from an album bursting with melodies, harmonies and rhythms while displaying an uncanny ability to weave organic instrumentation, beats and samples together. The result is a detailed and colorful setup of songs that sweep you up and carry you along on Jonti's magical sonic journey.
Opening number "Lotus Street", flexes and stretches as Jonti segues together live instrumentation and samples before warped, springy synths hint at the groove that is to follow. It's on "Alien" that things really take off as Jonti affixes layers of samples with crunchy break-beats and smooth strings all peppered with soaring, soulful R&B vocals from Sampa the Great. The excellent "Sleeping and Falling" ramps up the funk still further with a groovy bass line punctuated by strings and the wah-wah of keyboards. Jonti's dream pop vocals, part Bibio, part Panda Bear, bind the whole thing together as it gently shifts from a hazy summer jam to a more skewed psychedelic dream.
While the voice shares the Beach Boys influenced self-harmonizing style of those artists, the sound often sits squarely between the synth drones and layered noises of Panda Bear and the clean and crisp sound of Bibio. On other occasions, Jonti mixes in some hip-hop such as on "Island Rose". Again, marking an appearance from Sampa the Great, whose recent mixtape Birds and the BEE9 showed how adeptly she could weave hip-hop, soul, reggae, and jazz together, "Island Rose" is a good old-fashioned fun tune. Mixing in percolating percussion and synths that gently bubble to the surface, Sampa buffs the slice of leftfield hip-hop to a high finish with a gorgeously polished, floating chorus.
"Misto on the Moon" is another hazy psychedelic jam, unhurriedly helped along by the languid glockenspiel. The title track serves to inject a bit of life into even the laziest of limbs with one of the funkiest distorted bass lines you'll hear all year. The slightly melancholic feeling of the vocals gently flips as the song skids along, ending on an overwhelming wave of positivity. It's a subtle yet playful track with a pervading sense of fun. The Dr. Dre-esque plinking pianos, popping bass and zigzagging saxophone of "Suki" close out Side A.
The plaintive organ chords of"Cities" suggest a more contemplative start to Side B, that is until the break-beats, turntable scratches and strings show that Jonti is still in the mood to keep the mood light and the grooves loose. The more wistful, "Staring Window" floats on a psychedelic wave of jazz rhythms while "Animah" spins that jazz into left-field hip-hop gold featuring an energised Hodgy, founding father of Odd Future. "Love Prayer" admirably strips away the layers as Jonti shows faith in the power of his voice adorned only with the simplest of guitar strums like a lo-fi demo. Jonti still has one perfect anthem for late summer sun in the form of "Papaya Brothers". Featuring a four on the floor beat and layers of the core triumvirate of, strings, synths, and sax all held together by a bright and breezy keyboard riff, it's the perfect house tune for house parties. Jonti closes Side B, and the album as a whole, with the slow-burning, almost spiritual "Messe Man".
On one level, Tokorats can be enjoyed as a cleverly nuanced and textured album with Jonti displaying an innate ability to juxtapose old and new samples and live instrumentation cleverly. On the other, it can simply be enjoyed as an album of great tunes with some that'll make you think, some that will make you move, and some that will do both.