By Erik Myers
At first, TOKiMONSTA’s debut for Ultra Records, “Half Shadows,” feels uneven. You’re not hearing things; separated by a single track, the opener “The Center” and “808” feature the exact same cartoon bass drop. There is actually one small difference, as “808” was more chopped. Perhaps that was the point, but it’s annoying nonetheless.
But the fourth track, the spiky “Focused Chaos,” sets the album moving in the right direction. All misfires aside, “Half Shadows” is a decent album with a few excellent selections from Los Angeles producer Jennifer Lee. Reared in classical piano, she seems comfortable spanning the sonic spectrum, but she doesn’t cross into the more upbeat electric material as often as one would hope.
“Foolish,” for example, brings vocalist and longtime collaborator Gavin Turek in over a light ensemble of bongos and high-pitch keyboards, a melody which sounds more disco-oriented than one might imagine. “Go With It,” a downtempo electronic dub track featuring the delicate vocals of MNDR’s Amanda Warner. Also worth mentioning are the sleepy pop ambient mixes of “Sweet Williams” and the arresting “Waiting for the Break of Dawn.”
Her deeper mixes and ballads are nice enough, but they aren’t Lee’s strong suite on “Half Shadows.” She’s best doing throbbing dance tracks or hip-hop production. Kool Keith wilds out as much as Kool Keith can over the lucid space sound of “The Force,” including a fun call-and-response outro. “Focused Chaos” deserves a second mention, being a standout banger worthy of footwork DJ compilations. It builds its momentum on a blasted vocal cut, not unlike TNGHT’s best stuff. It’s fast, rigorous and ridiculously fun.
Electronic blogger Erik Myers is a Denver-based writer and new contributor to Reverb. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter.