From her name to her effervescent tunes, Tokimonsta is cut from a different cloth. The Cali native’s 13-track Ultra debut, appropriately titled Half Shadows, casts a dark light while maintaining an upbeat dance hall vibe. Not afraid of taking risks with her music, she’s constructed an album that showcases her vision and ambition, while still exploring sounds that are very particular to her and the scene she emerged from. It would have been easy to simply duplicate the tone and texture of 2011′s Creature Dreams EP, but she chose to go a totally different direction and create an album that dares to be different.
While Creature Dreams was a down-to-earth and relaxing project, Half Shadows jumps all over the place, leaving your head spinning. Starting off with the droning synth-driven song “The Center,” the record quickly establishes a tone of hazy confusion that rarely dissipates. As the last few mesmerizing drips of “The Center” evaporate, the record jolts you with a trap-like song featuring Kool Keith that makes you just go “what?”
A lot of Tokimonsta’s album tends to do that you. She’s ditched the easy-going mellow vibes for fidgety beats that leave you feeling a little apprehensive afterward. The low point of the album is the fourth track, “Focused Chaos,” which really could be renamed to simply “Chaos.” A tough three minutes to get through, it jerks you around and never really settles on a specific rhythm or pattern.
As per usual, Tokimonsta has enlisted some trusted artists to lay vocals over her often captivating beats. “Foolish” features Gavin Turek, and “Go With It” features her labelmate MNDR, and they end up being two of the better tracks off the album. “Foolish” is a catchy tune, and I can see broader audiences taking a liking to Turek’s voice crooning the word “foolish.” “Go With It” starts off with tribal drums, and quickly MNDR’s buzzing high-pitched voice fills the track, making for a surprisingly addictive combination.
The standout off the album is the penultimate song, “Waiting For The Break Of Dawn,” a throwback track that takes us back to the Tokimonsta we knew in 2011. While the new Tokimonsta of Half Shadows is compelling and quite capable of jamming out hits, it’s nice to see that she’ll never completely throw off her original style. Her ability to mix samples along with the piano and continuous snaps is still captivating, and it’s a proper way to ease out of this adventurous and often confrontational album.