Review : Jonti - Twirligig
PitchforkThe weird thing about early synthesized pop was that it made a quick, self-aware leap from signifying a shiny, electronic future to a sense of cheery, almost inane frothiness. Early Moog-tweaking musicians and engineers spent a lot of time figuring out how to electronically warp the work of baroque composers into ironic juxtapositions between tradition and technology, but eventually they had to come to terms with the fact that much of it still registered as grotesque distortions of nuanced melody. And for every musique concrète and BBC Radiophonic Workshop genius who turned those limitations into successfully arresting experiments, there was someone like Jean-Jacques Perrey who thrived on the potential of the equipment's inherent pop goofiness. Combine the cheerfully dippy, utopian enthusiasm of late-1960s electronic music with the more whimsical strains of the same era's psychedelic experimentation, and the end result can be clamorously demented at worst. Or best.
Of course, it means something drastically different to invoke that synthemesc horrorshow now that it's 40-plus years in the past, what with a couple of dozen hours' worth of Gary Wilson, Stereolab, and Black Moth Super Rainbow having had their say in the intervening decades. Twirligig is the first full-length album from Sydney multi-instrumentalist Jonti Danilewitz, and if it follows those aforementioned artists' archly playful approach to retrofuturist synth-psych, it also embodies it in odd, frivolous little songs that are as intricately constructed as they are naggingly irritating. Once the second track and highlight "Nightshift in Blue" is done working its sun-bleached, rubber-limbed Pet Sounds vibe, the rest of the album falls into a succession of woozy, disorienting, somewhat uncomfortable assemblages of brow-furrowing sketch-songs that often amble along a little too preciously for their own good.
Sometimes the tone is overly quirky: "Firework Spraying Moon" and "Begone Slumber" are short, slight, and often pretty, but in a way that seems too slapstick, like the notebook-paper-doodled title sequence to your typical indie comedy film. Sometimes it's almost obnoxiously overstuffed with noise, albeit in a half-speed, low-energy way, as in "Spooky Sport" and the layers of screeching bird/rubber/guitar/Atari ambiance that make its quasi-Polynesian swoon so bracing. And sometimes it feigns one of those moods before dropping the other on you. "Nodlews Way Home" stabs its ambling, mellow blues lope between the shoulder blades with a piercing, oscillating synthesizer squall that seems to be drunkenly picking a fight with the rest of the song. And the title track feels like two half-finished ideas haphazardly stapled together to make a quarter-finished song, a rhythm-machine and faux-Theremin reverie pushed unceremoniously toward a fuzz-synth drone through a tunnel of overbearing distortion....full text
StonesthrowOn a road trip, Jonti would be the passenger from hell. He’s one of those people who fiddle incessantly with the radio, changing stations midway through the first chorus of anything. He’s hyper-intelligent, and sees the structure of a song even as it takes shape. And then he gets bored and changes it. This makes for an album of 13 songs under 3 minutes (and one four-minute epic).
Each song comprises several different parts: if they repeated they might have been verses or choruses. As they stand, they’re beautiful fragments. And each fragment is built of repetitive elements, chosen from a wide repertoire. An odd alchemy of arcade laser guns, synths and a washboard melt together on “Begone Slumber”.
There are sung refrains on a few of the songs, but they ebb and swell, sometimes drowned out by the instrumentals. When you can catch the lyrics, they’re poetic: “Nightshift In Blue” is a futuristic jazz standard, with a sweet voice singing “It’s you; I’m dreaming…//Count my cards”.
Otayo Dubb guests on “Cylic Love”, an unconventional rap ballad. It might have the most conventional instrumental, but there are still cowbells and electric guitars on top of the boom-bap, and it sounds fresh and rich. The long verses give a backbone to the song as the instrumental rattles through a dazzling array of sounds....full text
SpinImagine if Panda Bear attempted to make Madlib albums for São Paulo planetariums. Like similarly inscrutable labelmate James Pants, Jonti Dan (formerly of Danimals) is a pop deconstructionist -- merging celestial falsettos, dusted sampledelics, and melted-tape nostalgia. South Africa–raised and Australia-based, his debut deals in 21st-century collage: an eddy of loops, strings, and sherbet-bright synthesizers. Guest raps from subterranean MC Otayo Dubb bleed into the bootleg pyrotechnics of "Firework Spraying Moon"; the samba slink of "Batmilk" bleeds into the hypnagogic haze of "Begone Slumber." It's crate-digging redefined for the chill age....full text
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