Album Review: Tonik Ensemble ‘Snapshots’

Electronica – yea, that thing, that o’so overly misused word describing any arranged noise coming out of a computer. Well.. in all actuality electronica, now a few decades old, was a term used to describe a sub genre within electronic music. Before the not-so-new rage of classifying digital music as EDM (I’m showing my age), artists such as Air, Theivery Corporation, Daft Punk, and Royksopp carried the tag which referenced electronic music created without the sole intention of making you dance – A mindset that was born in resistance to the 90’s era club scene on which House, Trance, and Techno were established. Electronica’s emergence as a diverse blend of genres including but not limited to world, dance, lounge, and funk was the driving force of why digital music continues to resonate deeply in everything we hear and why so many artists are inspired by it’s endless potential. Many 90’s artists deliberately showcased the no-holes-barred approach defined by two very important variables: expansive taste and new technologies. The Anton Kaldal Ágústsson led Icelandic group Tonik Ensemble reaches back to these glory days and then breaknecks to catch a quick glimpse of the prior era – A time defined by the likes of Pet Shop Boys, Madonna, and Depeche Mode. Visually, Snapshots, embraces the amalgamation of color that accompanies the release, defeating the notion of not “judging a book by it’s cover.” The clear delineation from TE‘s predecessors allow TE to progress the sound they successfully rebrand and revive by tacking on the zeitgeist-like R&B resurgence and the organic presence provided by chamber instruments reminding us that we are Human After All – all in all illustrating Tonik Ensemble’s roots and why digital music can remain relevant.

The brevity embodied in a title like Snapshots would lead one to think any and all feeling will be established quickly and decay even quicker but the album’s title is a contrast (although I believe unintentional) to the theme of vastness delivered by track titles “Landscapes,”The Further I Go,”, and “Until We Meet Again.” Not only do the song titles give us an encompassing image of where the story leads, the album’s opener “Prelude” starts slow and builds on top of spiritual chanting which comes to an abrupt break allowing the strings to slink in with ease, over the hills in the distance. “Synaesthesia” as a title comes off acceptably corny but the vocal croons in like it just jumped ship leaving Chet Faker to ring his own S.O.S. When it’s you, the drawing board, and endless possibility you can mash classic western strings with Asian percussion and posh vocals to create “Landscapes” which might as well be the title track as the female vocal sales “Snapshots of you…” before the comfortingly fuzzed horns fill in the space.

Take your time – you won’t get lost, nor left behind, but by Snapshots end you will see the solace in such things.

Keepers:
“Landscapes”
“Synaesthesia”
“Prelude”

 

-Rob Leonard

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