Here at TSOFD we write about music in depth because we’re passionate about it. We see no need to cover something we’re not into. If we don’t review something, that doesn’t mean it’s not good. Or that someone else shouldn’t dig it. It just means it didn’t do it for us at that precise moment in time so why cover something at great length and be all lukewarm about it? Or, even worse, foist a load of negativity onto the reader about something an artist may have poured their heart and soul into for weeks/months/years, spending paragraphs trying to justify why for us, personally, we’re not feeling it? Isn’t the world a down enough place without doing that? Isn’t there enough hate, bile and snide posts on the Internet already? Yes. We think so.
We might comment from time to time on a MASSIVE album that’s had a lot of hyperbole printed about it and question why it’s such a big deal. Or briefly analyze why a popular artist’s record has disappointed their hardcore fans. But even then we don’t shit on it. I honestly wonder whether the nastiest critics out there are simply jealous they can’t make music themselves to any great standard. They then spend a few hours typing away before tossing something off that pours a load of pompous turd on something another human being has slaved over for, in most cases, a very lengthy period of time. Doesn’t seem fair really. Who are these gatekeepers of music who determine what’s hot and what’s not? Just what are their credentials to anoint themselves tastemakers? ‘Self-appointed judges judge’ as a talented but initially overlooked songwriter once put it. Today this self-appointed judge is going to play a fun little game called review the reviewer.
Why are you reading a rant on TSOFD you might ask. Where did this come from? I’ll tell you. After hearing the track ‘Sleeping and Falling’ by Jonti I checked out the artist’s back catalog and loved ALL of it. I could not wait for his new album ‘Tokorats’ to drop. It takes a lot for music to get me this excited these days. Sure there’s a lot I really, really like. But music is often consumed digitally for the large part now and although it’s extremely convenient it’s also arguably a little cold when it comes to parting with money. It takes a lot to generate the same level of anticipation as what you might experience, say, if you were looking forward to holding a brand new pair of headphones in your hands, or some new trainers, or an item of clothing you really like – whatever floats your boat as a rabid consumer. A lot of music can just be streamed straight away now let’s be honest, with no real need to download it in order to literally make it in your possession. But with ‘Tokorats’, it was a case of checking Jonti’s Bandcamp again and again to see if the album was up yet – eager to stream all the tracks then hit ‘buy now’ when they, predictably, fully lived up to expectations.
Seriously. I was like a kid waiting for Christmas Day.
I was baffled then to read a piece which purported to be a review of ‘Tokorats’ but seemed to bear no actual relation to the album I was listening to. Again, it’s fine for someone not to like something I like. Each to their own. But why waste time writing about it if it’s not your bag? And if you’re going to pour cold water on something then at least make your critique accurate? This album is ‘overproduced’? Really?!! Seems like the perfect balance and build of instrumentation to me. Never overly cluttered to the detriment of the track. Always well thought out and pieced together. Overproduced, to me, implies overuse of specific recording or editing tools or that arrangements are too busy. This just isn’t the case with ‘Tokorats’. In fact some of it is actually pretty minimalist if you break it down into individual bars of music (as opposed to maximalist as this particular review implies). Another charge leveled at Jonti is that he is ‘unrestrained’. Well, ignoring the implication an artist is supposed to be restraining themselves somehow, when in actual fact we want our artists to be pushing hard not holding back, if this is supposed to mean that Jonti hasn’t exerted enough control over the creative process then this is a bonkers position as well. Listening to ‘Tokorats’ I feel as though the artist knows exactly what it is they want you to hear, and how and when they want you to hear it. It’s an audio master class in presentation.
Jonti is also called out for ‘perfectionism’. Mmm. OK I can understand that if someone goes overboard then the result might be something that is sterile with all the interesting rough edges that lend character smoothed out. But this is in no way the case here. In actual fact this album often feels like its maker is quite relaxed about it not being too polished and has no problem just letting it all hang out, where appropriate. I don’t want to dwell on this particular excrement baguette of a write-up for too much longer but it’s seemingly been argued that this album encompassing a wide range of styles and influences is somehow a bad thing? NEWSFLASH. We don’t want artists to pigeonhole themselves just to fit into a critic’s neat little definition of what genre they should be. We want them to make the music they are inspired to make no holds barred. Now, I could understand this criticism of ‘Tokorats’ as a listening experience if it lacked cohesion. But the opposite is true. This is a very cohesive album. VERY. Despite it crossing broad terrain (though not as broad as the review in question would imply) it all holds together very damn well. It’s a beautiful, bordering on psychedelic, journey of an LP which, frankly, is what I want from a record as I can’t be getting high anymore. Finally, it is argued Jonti’s approach to ‘Tokorats’ comes across as ‘fussy’. If you can’t enjoy ‘Tokorats’ for the fulfilling 50 + minutes it is then I’d suggest it’s not Jonti that’s the fussy one. I’ll leave it at that. Get it bought.
‘Tokorats’ is out now on Stones Throw.