TOKiMONSTA (aka Jennifer Lee) is yet another L.A. producer working in the fecund ground broken by J Dilla, then seeded by Flying Lotus, and further fertilized by dozens of other City of Angels knob-twiddlers toiling for labels like Brainfeeder, Alpha Pup, and Friends of Friends. She pushes that methodical, meticulous future-funk style that's all the rage at Low End Theory weekly, but TOKiMONSTA adorns those disciplined rhythmic bumps with a multitude of enchanting melodies and beguiling textures. In the SoCal instrumental-hiphop grand scheme, TOKiMONSTA's music engagingly bounces somewhere between Teebs's deeply moving Boards of Canada–isms and Free the Robots' ultra-vivid urban fantasias.
French guitarist Richard Pinhas has earned legend status with his nearly flawless seven-album run with Heldon. From 1974 to 1978, that group propelled the electronic-rock pioneered by Cluster and Tangerine Dream into the dystopian future with brutal bass throbs, relentlessly rolling and tumbling drums, and malevolently sizzling synthesizer circuits. If we had to live in the worlds projected by Heldon LPs like Un Rêve Sans Conséquence Spéciale, Interface, and Stand By, most of us would die within minutes. Heldon carved out a harsh, unforgiving aural space, but it's absolutely thrilling in its seething intensity and inhumanly forbidding atmospheres.
In his lengthy solo career, Pinhas hasn't scaled the lofty heights of his Heldon catalog, but he has maintained a consistent level of quality, which is more than can be said for most of his contemporaries. His latest release, Metal/Crystal (Cuneiform; www.cuneiformrecords.com), recorded with Wolf Eyes, Merzbow, and members of Heldon, is a sprawling six-track, 123-minute double CD.
CD 1's "Bi-Polarity (Gold)" is the most Heldon-like track here, with Pinhas's guitar frantically ululating over a faint funk rhythm, Didier Batard's ominous bass line, and swarming electronics. Pinhas's son Duncan dominates "Paranoia (Iridium)," a dense sheet of eerie isolationist ambience that'll induce what the title promises. The title of "Depression (Loukoum)" seems ironic, as it's the album's most hopeful-sounding track. A slowly unfolding panorama of momentously waxing and waning guitar and synth swells and conflagratory free-rock beats coalesce into a grand testament to human endurance. This may be the most pacific Merzbow and Wolf Eyes have ever sounded.
CD 2 starts with "Hysteria (Palladium)," a miasma of chaostrophic frequencies generated again with Merzbow and Wolf Eyes. It's vast and mostly painful, but not quite cathartic. "Schizophrenia (Silver)" recalls the tidal angst of Fripp/Eno's "An Index of Metals," before Pinhas's guitar spirals up in a mad frenzy and a muffled funk rhythm shuffles in. "Legend" features Pinhas solo, concluding on a mellow, Xanax-ed drone, a respite after a mostly turbulent work. Against the odds, aging genius Pinhas remains vital after all these years.
TOKiMONSTA performs with Bonobo and Kid Hops, Tues Nov 30, Showbox at the Market, 8 pm, $20 adv/$25 DOS, all ages.