Any musician can attest to the fact that their experiences are intertwined within the music they create. The most mundane mishaps can be carved into the most important melodies, and even without lyrics, these songs can carry the most potent of messages stemming from the experiences of its creator.
Jennifer Lee’s production on Oasis Nocturno, the new album from her project TOKiMONSTA, exemplifies this notion unlike any other. Across its twelve track runtime, the record ebbs between immersive, psychedelic hip-hop beats and brooding electronica while maintaining a concise, oddly upbeat edge. Lee’s style is colourful, and it’s clear she committed more time to honing the palate of sounds this time around.
”I definitely had more of a vision. I wanted to create an album with more of a straightforward story to take me away to a different place,” Lee says. She notes that her underlying vision of Oasis Nocturno saw her dedicate much more finesse and detail to end up with a final product that reflected her initial ambition for the project. “I wanted the track listing to be a lot more concise and the mix between songs more similar throughout. I wanted a stronger thread through the album.”
On top of a tracklist that utilises the talents of EARTHGANG and VanJess to shape the album’s narrative, Lee also mentions the role of modular synthesis in shaping the overall tone of Oasis Nocturno. The janky ‘Renter’s Anthem’ is a direct product of knob tweaking, and several other tracks across the record are speckled and affected with modular bloops and drones.
“I got really into the whole modular thing. You can hear it all over this album,” Lee says. “Whether it’s just little arpeggios or sound effects, or even just digital signal processing for crazy textures. I didn’t want to be too heavy handed with it because they can get really alien and weird, but I wanted to make it as musical as possible by assembling little modules to make sounds that no one else can have but you.”
Rising to prominence in the LA beatmaking scene in LA alongside the likes of Flying Lotus and Shlohmo, TOKiMONSTA has always had a knack for making a beat knock - deep kicks and whiplash snares are a speciality of Lee’s. However, it seemed like the rest of the world didn’t catch onto her craft till the release of 2017’s Lune Rouge - the first full-length released by Lee after a life-saving brain operation almost nullified her ability to understand music.
“The headspace was completely different,” says Lee of the two albums. “I created Oasis Nocturno knowing I’d already written Lune Rouge and established my ‘post-surgery voice’ in terms of everything I’d gone through.
“It was a celebration of being alive and being like ‘You know what you guys? I’m just going to make whatever the fuck I want to, because I get to live another day on this planet and I don’t want to waste my time doing anything other than what I want.’ Both of them were natural, but I think this one had a lot more of an intention behind it.”
It’s obvious that Lee’s lust for life infects all aspects of her thought process behind making music. Despite the success of her operation, she’s still incredibly aware of her condition - (Moyamoya, a rare affliction that limits blood-flow to the brain) and the realities it holds in the grander scheme of things.
“I feel like it’s still not really in the past. In many ways, the vast majority of people are probably even more curious this time around,” she predicts. “There’ll be tonnes of people who didn’t know me back then and who will go back and be like ‘oh she went thought this thing’. I get people hit me up on the internet saying they wish me well, even though it happened at the end of 2015.
“To be technically correct, I still have the disease – I always have to be positive about it. For the rest of my life I still have things that are involved with the condition. As far as the pressure from that, I’ve already created my celebratory album, but that story doesn’t go away. I just get to explore another one with this album.”
Oasis Nocturno, the new album from TOKiMONSTA, arrives on Friday March 20 via TOKiMONSTA Music.