Jennifer Lee, going by the stage name TOKiMONSTA, is a Los Angeles-based electronic producer on her sixth studio album. Lee is a classically trained pianist. And while her training does inform her work as a producer, Lee sounds more interested in economical, visceral expressions of dance music. Her affinity for hip-hop and RnB is undeniably present in her approach as she has worked with Anderson .Paak, Isaiah Rashad, Selah Sue and others. Oasis Nocturno sees Lee incorporating all of her disparate influences into a messy collage.
“Love That Never” is the atmospheric intro. Bright synth and calming beats hide whispery vocals that are placed far back into the mix. The singing that is present is mostly there for texture as any lyrics are mostly indiscernible. “One Day” right off the back veers off from her house/electronica template. Bibi Bourelly and Jean Deaux provide the vocals for this run-of-the-mill pop and RnB tune. Electric guitar strums are paired against heavy electro-drums. It is pretty anticlimactic and the whole tune feels pretty out of place.
Drew Love offers some soulful vocals on album highlight “Get Me Some”. Rubbery synth-bass scrapes up against a jazzy funk groove, albeit polished and sanitised. “Renter’s Anthem” is a first in a couplet of tunes where Lee goes more into pure house. Stabby keys are met with some aggressive 808s. “Are you hanging up?” a repeated vocal sample says throughout. It will probably find its way into some DJ sets once live music is a thing again. “Up and Out” is a more slow-burning deep house cut. A light, infectious stomp is flavoured with subtle guitar flickers and metallic percussion.
“Fried for the Night” is the biggest head-scratcher. Especially following the previous two tunes, it is jarring and completely out of place on the track list. It is going for hazy trap sound. It’s fine. Atlanta duo EARTHGANG add serviceable rapping without demanding much attention from the listener. “Phases” is pretty clear filler. This RnB-lite tune features decent vocals from Sunni Colón, but the generic guitar work and copy-paste dance beat offers the track no service.
“Come and Go” on the other hand, provides another a highlight. VanJess’s vocal performance is fantastic. There is some crafty vocal layering as well for a nice harmonic effect. The tune is slow, soulful, and dripping with melancholy. A snappy snare works its way into the bright, textured instrumental. It would work as a solid single, but it also feels as if it might be on the wrong album. “To Be Remote” is another moodier house cut. Subtle changes are executed fairly well. An emotive key motif works its way in over time, as well as a pulsating kick pattern and some catchy vocal snippets.
“House of Dal” is easily one of the best cuts on Oasis Nocturno. It is a more upbeat track than the rest of the record. Skittish synths bend and swirl around energetic builds and climaxes. The production is marvellous – vibrant and lush detail is ready to be mined throughout repeat listens. It’s also just a tonne of fun. “Higher Hopes” has vocal contributions from New York singer Rosehardt.
The closer “For My Eternal, Oh Deam My Treasure” mirrors the opening track as a bookend. It’s a weightless piece of ambience with buzzing chimes and spacey synths. Another filler track, the dynamic shifts are not enough to justify the stale beat and languid piano chords.
There is nothing offensive or outright bad on Oasis Nocturno. Most of it is perfectly pleasant. Outside of a couple choice cuts, much of the material here will leave very little if any impact, existing deep into the algorithms of Spotify study playlists. The biggest problem with this latest work from TOKiMONSTA is that it lacks identity. Tracks are thrown in randomly without much thought of cohesiveness. It’s very difficult to be immersed in this project, when jarring musical transitions add discontinuity to the experience.