Los Angeles-based electronic artist Jennifer Lee records the ostensibly degendered handle TOKiMONSTA. She is associated with Flying Lotus’s Brainfeeder scene and has been active since 2006. As such, TOKiMONSTA complements the sound that has come to define the West Coast environment, with an emphasis placed on riding a steady groove over fetishizing the glitch as artists like Prefuse 73 did earlier in the last decade.
TOKiMONSTA’s moniker itself is instructive. “Toki” is Korean for “bunny rabbit,” a term that reflects both her cultural heritage and suggests cuteness. Pair this with “monsta,” a deliberate misspelling of “monster” meant to recall IM handles, and there is a clear juxtaposition of ideas that can be directed related to her sound.
On their own, tracks like “Gamble” and “Sa Mo Jung,” Menu’s breakout single thanks to a collective push from media concerns like KCRW and NPR, plays like a sun-kissed pop track for the globe-trotting jet set. But in the context of the album, it has a more overcast feel, recalling dusk just before night takes hold. The remainder of the album has a decidedly nocturnal vibe that befits its title. Songs like “Sweet Day,” “Questing,” “Death by Disco,” “Cheese Smoothie,” and “Bready Soul” unfold like the scenery that passes a driver coasting through an abandoned city after last call, barely cognizant of the intricacies and variances of the cityscape. She creates this sound by synthesizing seemingly disparate sources like metal, down tempo, funk, and R&B with the assurance of someone with extensive and varied musical training. Her sound is consistent, with tracks not jumping out so much as flowing into one another.
As with much music of this sort, it’s not made for clubs. Some detractors may dismiss it as being ideal for high-end restaurants and suburban retailers. As someone who discovered the Chemical Brothers and Air by watching their music videos on clothing store TV monitors while wiling away my adolescent free time at malls, I hardly consider that a slight. Background music has a function. The best practitioners know how to harness it to surface unexpected, nuanced, intangible emotional responses in the listener. TOKiMONSTA is clearly on that mission and I’ll be interested to see where she arrives at next.
|Title:||TOKiMONSTA - Midnight Menu|
|Label:||Art Union/Listen Up|