There’s something liberating about listening to TOKiMONSTA.
From the nocturnal soundscapes of her debut album Midnight Menu to recent stomping remixes for the likes of Lil Uzi Vert, the Los Angeles beat heroine has left few stones unturned in her sprawling catalogue, where her beats have found a home in dingy clubs and gargantuan festival stages alike. Though not confined by genre, there is something considered that graces each of TOKiMONSTA’s tracks, which are filled with emotive notes and the contemplative warmth of throwback R&B. Musically, she’s a trained pianist and a Red Bull Music Academy graduate who’s soaked up all the eclectic flavours from nights at Los Angeles’ legendary Low End Theory.
That’s something that shines on her new single ‘Don’t Call Me,’ a collaboration with Malaysian singer Yuna that balances a defiant attitude towards an ex-lover with silky delivery and intricate production to match. “The reception has been very positive. It’s definitely a relief since I’ve been intentionally laying low putting out music,” TOKiMONSTA says. It’s a taste of her upcoming album Lune Rouge due this year, her first full-length since 2012. “It’s a chapter in a book – integral to the entire story, but just one part of many. The sounds are very much typical of me. There is a wide range of emotions and energy, with some upbeat, chill out, and extra left-field tunes. I can’t say all the features yet, but I have some known names and some new guns too,” she says.
The guests on the upcoming album seem to offer a mixed bag, much like TOKiMONSTA’s previous collaborations which have ranged from Kool Keith to Anderson.Paak to Joyce Wrice. Furthermore, it also aligns with the ethos of TOKiMONSTA’s own Young Art imprint, which looks to foster emerging vocalists and producers. Since beginning in 2014, the project has been a learning curve for TOKiMONSTA, who now adds label founder to her growing repertoire. “The album will come out on Young Art. I’m learning that labels are complicated and delegating tasks to people that would handle things better than yourself is key. I think that’s why Young Art has been doing well – we have a good structure for operations and everyone is excited to see where we can go with this,” she says.
Previously, TOKiMONSTA’s adventurousness has seen her releases housed by everyone from Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder imprint to global heavy-hitters Ultra. On paper, the two seem like polar opposites, while TOKiMONSTA’s music seems worlds apart from the fist-pumping big room house and electro usually associated with Ultra. “They are quite different in their outward appeal and their audiences. I received great support from both labels. I would say a surprising amount of support from Ultra despite how left-field I was at the time that I had released my album. I think I was always was the slightly more accessible artist on Brainfeeder, and the wild card for Ultra – so I just did my thing and made the same music I’d make for either label, she says.
Still, Ultra’s decision to sign TOKiMONSTA is indicative of a movement where electronic fans are searching beyond maximalist, festival-ready EDM for the latest sounds. TOKiMONSTA says listeners have “have evolved their electronic music palette,” while such artists are also being wholeheartedly embraced by pop. Australians Hayden James and Golden Features recently earned production credits of Katy Perry’s latest album. Elsewhere, Jack Ü have served up wonderfully wonky backdrops for Justin Bieber’s ‘Where Are Ü Now’ crooning, and Cashmere Cat has put his touches on Ariana Grande’s infectious ‘Be My Baby.’
“All music is becoming one thing. There are lots of collaborations between big artists, smaller artists, artists from different spheres, etc – but the separation or ‘pop’ and ‘not pop’ isn’t as distinct anymore,” she says. In a time when sonic bridges are being built more than ever before, it’s no wonder that a genre-defying artist like TOKiMONSTA is excited about the current music landscape. As a Korean raised on plentiful servings of Los Angeles hip-hop, she’s also enthused about current Eastern artists like Keith Ape and CL finding success in American rap circles. “I love it! I always waited for the moment where there would be a crossover artist that wasn’t a funny gimmick or use their appeal to further fetishise Asian women. Those two and many other are great,” she says.
TOKiMONSTA will be appearing at Sunny Side Up Tropical Festival from the 11-12th of August at Potato Head Beach Club, Bali. Ticket info here.