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Album of the Week: Tokyo Prose 'Presence'

Tokyo Prose’s debut album sets the bar…

Listen to the full album here.

Artist: Tokyo Prose
Album: Presence
Label: Samurai Music Group
Released: 04/08/2014

One of the very few things I've always disliked about electronic music is the inexplicable need for people to label the music they're listening to. Often I'll be listening to music with mates and inevitably, somebody says ‘what genre would you call this?', to which I nearly always wonder if it matters or if it would enhance anybody's enjoyment if I were to answer. This culture of hearing something new and then scrambling to put a suitable name on it makes it increasingly difficult for producers to push boundaries and create something entirely different and refreshing. Yet sometimes, you still hear an album or a track that's so different to anything you've heard before that not only is it difficult to pigeonhole into a particular subgenre, it would also be an injustice to try. 'Presence' is that album.

New Zealander Tokyo Prose (AKA Sam Reed) has been on the scene for a while and has released EPs on Hospital Records and all three Samurai Music Group labels, but summer 2014 marks the release of 'Presence', Tokyo Prose's first full-length album. With Tokyo Prose's refreshingly idiosyncratic take on the drum & bass sound, this is one to be hyped for. The opening track is a slow number called '16 Bar Cycles that takes clear influence from jazz and features some immersive, rippling sounds and an ambient piano riff that sets the tone for the album. Wont Let Me Go, a collaboration with Metalheadz favourite Lenzman, delves straight into a fusion of punchy drum & bass percussion, syncopated piano chords and soulful vocals courtesy of MC Fox. Drum & Bass can often be quite a pumped, in-your-face style of music to listen to, yet the subtlety of Tokyo Prose's production becomes very clear early on into the Prose listening experience.

The collaborators that feature on the album each bring their own distinct sound and experience to the table, and it just so happens that these new elements blend perfectly with Tokyo Prose's well-honed sound. Common Ground features the production handiwork of Synkro, one of my favourite producers and the Manchester born artist stamps his signature on the track. There's no percussion at all for the first minute of the track, just some really spacey reverberating sounds to lull you into relaxation. When the percussion kicks in you know Synkro has been involved, with his typically syncopated drum patterns and layers upon layers of intricacy. This is one to lose yourself in after a night out.

It already becomes clear by this point in the album that this is a piece that's been crafted for the listener to hear in full. One track flows to the next with ease and the full 70 minutes is a journey worth taking. Sunsets is quite a jungly number with creeping percussions and an urban twist in the form of vocals from Mancunian MC DRS. DRS proves why MCs can be great contributors to drum & bass, adding his own distinctively British vibe to the track.

Covet is one of the most tight productions on the album. The whole track centres on a killer piano riff while including intermittently drifting violin melodies. Dynamics are used masterfully here, with the violin rising to a crescendo in the background every sixteen bars. It's only really the percussion that roots the track in drum & bass – The instrumentals sound so natural on this piece and across the album; it's like Tokyo Prose is making a point that electronic music is not only capable of being beautiful, it's meant to be.

Presence is proof that D&B is completely not all about obscure sounds and bass. It's one of the few drum & bass albums I've heard that focuses entirely on musicality rather than bass music's intended effect to make you dance. You're probably not likely to hear this one at your average drum & bass night and you're even less likely to hear it in an Ibiza club, but this makes perfect post-rave listening material and the ideal summer album. From beginning to end, there is an indescribable warmth to the music. The intended progression from one track to the next is clear when listening in album order. There are no curveballs during which you wonder where the album is going – just new ideas and perfectly harmonized, original sounding instrumentals. Prose demonstrates his musical talent by bringing in elements from non-electronic genres and by using piano chords that, while sounding rich, don't flood other elements and affect the intended subtlety of the album.

Unfortunately with electronic music, some listeners seem to think that music is less worth listening to as it gets older. With so many producers and DJs around and a scene that is absolutely thriving (not at all a bad thing), there is a constant demand for new music, sometimes leaving older productions to be forgotten by many. However, I can tell you now that this is an album I'll be listening to not just for the summer or even 2014, but for years to come. It's that good.


01. 16 Bar Cycles (with Christoph El Truento)
02. Won't Let Me Go (with Lenzman & Fox)
03. Small Gains
04. Ventura
05. Kidman (with Zoë Klinck)
06. Common Ground (with Synkro)
07. Sunsets (with LSB & DRS)
08. Fragmented You (with Milton)
09. Covet
10. Waiting On (with Riya)
11. All Things
12. See Through Love
13. Dance With You

WORDS | Janson Goldberg

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