|Album Review: Tokimonsta – Desiderium|
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Los Angeles-based producer Jennifer Lee, better known as Tokimonsta, has been around for four years now, delivering an already-impressive discography of serene, hypnotic hip-hop beats. She’s no one-trick pony, though; with each release Lee has been using vocalists more and more, these tracks representing some of her best work. Last year’s Half Shadows LP drove this point home, with half the tracks including vocals, most notably the MNDR collaboration “Go With It.”
Now Tokimonsta is back with a new “mini-album,” Desiderium. While only 20 minutes long, it does feel bigger than an EP, and seems to mark a change in her production approach. In the past, Lee has mostly stuck to unhurried, detail-oriented ambience. On Desiderium, things feel bigger, more brash, and altogether more interested in having fun. The title of the opening track, “The Beginning,” suggests this new chapter. The song's bold percussion and choral theatrics are just a hint at what’s to come.
“The Beginning” paves the way for the album’s first pop song, “Drive,” featuring the soulful vocals of Arama. Toki’s upbeat, clattering production is an interesting foundation, more imaginative than a lot of her past productions for vocalists.
Track three, “Steal My Attention” isn’t a collaboration, but Lee slyly uses samples to give it the feel of one. While most electronic music producers take R&B samples and use them for house or garage, she’s more interested in making her own twisted form of R&B here.
Desiderium’s first single, “Realla,” is another R&B song, this time a collaboration with Anderson Paak. This song is probably the biggest surprise ever from Tokimonsta. Anderson Paak sounds like Frank Ocean, and Toki sounds like someone who should be producing the next Frank Ocean album.
Instrumental track “Dusty Stars” brings the pace back up a notch, with a neon-bright synth melody and high-pitched vocals that at times sound like a monkey, which is just awesome. This track sums up the playful sound being experimented with throughout the album.
Third vocal collab “Open Air” is a bit underwhelming compared to the other two, but it’s still a fine track, with vocals contributed by Joyce Wrice. It and album closer “Sakamoto’s Spring” bring a very rewarding 20 minutes of new music to a close. It’s not often that a release signals such a promising turn in an artist’s career. The flagship release of Lee’s new label, Young ArtDesiderium is an exciting mission statement for the future. Head over to Tokimonsta's Soundcloud page for a full album stream.