TOKiMONSTA - Oasis Nocturno Music Album Reviews

Producer Jennifer Lee’s latest album is darker and more introspective, but the innovative beats frequently take a back seat to her guest vocalists’ voices and personalities.

Electronic producer Jennifer Lee, better known as TOKiMONSTA, considers making beats the ultimate form of freedom. As a child learning piano, she resented having to play entire compositions written by someone else, preferring to play her favorite passages over and over—an experience she likens to an early foray into sampling. After teaching herself production in her college dorm room, she joined a community of musicians in L.A. who organized beat battles, a signal to the world that their work was complete without vocalists. It was almost philosophical in nature: While beats are often considered background, Lee and peers like Flying Lotus considered them the main event.


But the beat-music world has changed in the past decade, and TOKiMONSTA’s sound has likewise opened up to incorporate sweeping arrangements, pop melodies, dance beats, and, notably, space for vocalists. On her last two albums, she has negotiated the process of making music on her own terms while accommodating an expanding roster of guest features. As she has worked vocals into the mix, she has also embraced more genres. Oasis Nocturno folds funk, rap, and R&B into a shape-shifting blend of styles that recalls Disclosure one moment, and Anderson .Paak the next. She also works extensively with house and house-adjacent beats for the first time, frequently slowing the tempo to a ruminative, heads-down pace. To branch out in so many different directions seems like the ultimate declaration of creative freedom, but it’s not clear that the strategy suits her; the album often feels like it’s on the brink of delving into a groove, only to be pulled in a new direction. And Lee’s beats frequently take a back seat to her guest vocalists’ voices and personalities.

TOKiMONSTA’s previous album, Lune Rouge, was held together by an underlying narrative. “Because I’m making beats, it might not be as obvious, but each of these beats—all these songs I put together—tell a story,” Lee said. She had recorded the record in the wake of undergoing surgery for Moyamoya, a rare brain condition; while recovering, she temporarily lost her ability to understand speech or music. It was only after finishing the first song for the album, “I Wish I Could,” that she finally felt like everything was going to be OK. That sense of relief was palpable in the album’s layered vocals and crystalline production.

Oasis Nocturno exists in the aftermath of that emotional catharsis. Compared to Lune Rouge, it is darker and more introspective, but it doesn’t have as explicit a narrative attached to it. The album’s song titles—“For My Eternal Love, Dream My Treasure,” “Love That Never,” “To Be Remote”—hint at stories Lee might be trying to tell; combined with the predominantly minor keys and slow, house-inspired grooves, they signal a newfound heaviness. But her frequent stylistic shifts and reliance on guest vocalists give the album a disjointed feel that contradicts her usual immersive sensibility.

Lee’s background as a beatmaker is still the guiding force on Oasis Nocturno. The songs are strongest when they are purely instrumental and the production has space to shine, or, as on “Love That Never” and “To Be Remote,” when a human voice is warped and stretched until it becomes another layer of texture. “Up and Out,” a leisurely, house-flavored track, is sleek and soothing, like a handful of marbles. On “House of Dal,” the pulse quickens: A see-sawing beat propels inky keys and twangy synth to delightful, cosmic effect.

In contrast, the vocals sound underdeveloped, and it often feels like Lee is holding back in order to make room for them, sacrificing complexity for glossy restraint. The more upbeat or empowering tracks feel out of place amid moody instrumentals. “One Day,” an anthemic self-love pop song, details the exes and doubters that vocalists Bibi Bourelly and Jean Deaux want to prove wrong. But the production—not much beyond a sparse drum beat and light keys—leaves you wondering how Lee’s vision for this otherwise morose and sedated album relates. Rosehardt’s echoey vocals are worked deeper in the mix on “Higher Hopes,” but the watery synth still feels aimless. “Fried for the Night,” a psychedelic party track about “those moments you feel fried and turnt,” is the lone case where the beats elevate the vocals: Atlanta hip-hop duo EARTHGANG’s jubilant, staccato flow and playful imagery (“Cotton candy in my cup/Sour Patches, pucker up”) sparkle over Lee’s warbling synths and rippling trap beats.

You leave the album wishing for she had allowed herself to get a little weirder. A few songs are nearly there. Opener “Love That Never” masterfully mixes wavy, distorted vocals through a wash of rain sounds and water droplets, conveying an acute sense of yearning that’s missing from much of the album. The breadth of Oasis Nocturno is commendable, but you can’t help but wonder what these songs would sound like if she had let the grooves, and not her guests, be her guide. As her songs become more encumbered, you can tell that the beatmaker in Lee still longs to break free.


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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
TOKiMONSTA - Oasis Nocturno Music Album Reviews TOKiMONSTA - Oasis Nocturno Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Tuesday, April 07, 2020 Rating: 5

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