[Reviewed by Peter Marks]
2012 was a hectic year. Yet through all of the upheaval and uncertainty, this record kept getting pulled out of the collection and played thoroughly. Rachel Maloney, who is Tonikom is a prolific artist. She does few interviews, plays sporadic shows and isn’t one to seek out the limelight. When you hear her work you begin to realize why she’s the low-key player that she is: the music she makes is so delicately nuanced, so wide-ranging and so well-designed she has no need to say a word. What she composes does all the talking you’d ever need, each record is a universe unto itself with facets alternately shining and searing in equal parts.
I’ve followed her for a while now and can say that “Found and Lost” is big change from her previous two albums on Hymen. This one places greater emphasis on that most elusive of qualities in rhythmic electronics: the groove. She brings out some seriously hard-hitting beats yet they are tempered by restrained usage of dynamics so as to give one the feeling of that proverbial hand in the glove. I waited and waited so patiently for what was going to come next, having the odd track here and there to get my fix but this one was worth all the months it surely spent gestating in her head to receive. The scatter shot breaks she’s known for do not appear here, in a manner she began on 2009’s incredible “The Sniper’s Veil”, Tonikom is continually morphing what her sound is.
Did I mention that “Found and Lost” is good and long? She doesn’t skimp on portions with this one and though a lot of people I know griped about this, I’m sure they’ll be the first to pine for new material should they finally let this one sink in. This is the key to her latest, you must spend an inordinate amount of time coming to grips with the near-endless layering and myriad details this ornate aural confection is comprised of. To casually listen to Tonikom is to cheat yourself out of so much. Be it the magnificently done atmospheres or the sparse yet somehow intricate rhythms. She plays around a lot in the sound field with many strange and abrasive noises, but rather than let them drive and define her compositions she uses them as accents to delineate and then demarcate contrasting elements.
It would be easy to keep going on and on, listing off the merits of “Found and Lost”. One could focus solely on the technical aspects of her art, the elegant tapestry she synthesizes out of thin air or the subtle influences of dub and reggae I can just barely perceive but that would be cold and analytical. What draws me to her work time and time again is the humanity she infuses her songs with. This isn’t just the sound of machines singing their lullabies nor are we bearing witness to the editing prowess of software; the intuitive abilities which only a conscious, living being is capable of possessing is what makes “Found and Lost” so beguilingly seductive.
There’s a tale being told here but I’m not certain what it is, I feel as though I’ve been here before but I don’t know where I am… Something’s happened and I can’t get my bearings. The magnetism of what she’s composed is too strong, this album has a will and life all it’s own. Truly, this is drift music in the purest sense you could imagine. There’s no destination in sight, you’re lost out at sea and even though the deck is swamped all you want to do is fall into the water and merge with it. The sensuality of Tonikom’s designs is not to be overlooked, an overwhelming series of waves wash over you dragging the mind to places unknown.
People have been so blind-sided by Architect’s new album but you can hear the seeds of it being sown via the resounding remix Haujobb provide. ‘Detector’ becomes an overt and aggressive study driven by a tempo which will barely give you time to catch your breath. It also contains elements of dub (but not the step, sorry bros) and like a remix should, it ends abruptly giving you no warning whatsoever. She keeps the number of them low, two to be exact with the other being a reminder of her break beat-laden past which absolutely does the business. Big up to Angina P.
Tonikom is an artist like no other you will hear, her skill at marrying electronic precision to flawed, frail human feeling is without equal. In her view, I suspect, it is more important to elicit an emotional response with one’s work than to just provide a seamless backdrop to the ebb and flow of life. I eagerly await her next evolutionary step…