ROGUE SOUNDS: Ashland Producer Toonorth Swaps Lo-Fi for HiFi on new EP, ‘Anemoia’
Prolific Ashland-based beat-producer Toonorth (Dominic Martin) just dropped his latest collection, Anemoia, on January 13. The five-song EP is Toonorth’s first with the Michigan-based BLVNT RECORDS, and is a smooth and sultry collection, from a smooth and sultry producer.
While much of Toonorth’s previous work mined the world of lo-fi, with heavy featuring of chiptune and 8-bit elements, Anemoia, draws its sonic palate more heavily from down-tempo and R&B, with lush textures so smooth you can almost hear Toni Braxton’s vocals sliding right in on top.
With one exception.
Martin juxtaposes the smoothness of the synths and samples with more a-rhytmic beats on the drums, creating a push and pull of smooth and jagged on many of the songs that pulls it back from the smooth ambience of down-tempo and towards a more active, almost free jazz, style of composition.
That’s a tension that’s evident from the collection’s launch, as the rapped lyrics are dispensed almost like vollied chunks, with evident sonic gaps between the phrases. It has a lurching start and stop feel that can be jarring, but is also wholly uncommon.
But that push and pull is most clear on the EP’s fourth song, its title track, in which a simple metronome-like hit of tambourine has the beat hijacked by an ambitious hi-hat pattern that creates its own beat to march to. It’s an interesting choice as Toonorth’s stated primary influence is hip-hop, a style whose backbone is clean beats, with the polyrhymic variations generally provided by the vocals. With the exception of the first track, which features vocals, Anemoia is emcee-less hip hop, something Toonorth calls “experimental future beats.”
Though not easily classifiable, and not for everyone, both because of its layered take on rhythm, and its stratospheric aesthetic, Anemoia is easily Toonorth’s most interesting release yet, and a great collection to ponder the infinite mysteries of your ceiling to.