Music Review: Toxe – Blinks

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Toxe

Blinks

[PAN; 2018]

Rating: 3.5/5

Blinks, the third EP from STAYCORE-/Bala Club-/SHAPE-affiliate Toxe is a vibrant, buoyant mess of sound and drama. Its four tracks operate as self-contained worlds, richly sketched, teeming with life: talkative synths and chattering drums flowing through honeyed tones and cartoonish squeals. Like some elaborate, crystalline object suspended in a space and time that’s not our own, overflowing with angles, edges, and recesses, her music plays with light and shade; absorbing the heat of a distant sun, smooth curvatures striated, weaving an affective mark that’s at once labile and forthright. We come at this music from above, viewing the goings-on of these otherworlds with a drones-eye-view, but as we peer more closely — our vision coming into focus — we can’t help but become entangled in their intrigues, triumphs, and sadnesses.

We begin our journey at “Honey Island,” landing abruptly on springy terrain that hisses and whistles in greeting. Undergirded by purposefully-placed bass tones, the track rolls brightly through the air — its notes hitting clear and true, reverberating gently as they move through the mix — a tumbleweed minesweeper, its intricate construction light and mobile, recursive surfaces shifting smoothly. Then, plunging deeper, “Big Age” welcomes us to a more temperate zone, where the drums rain down in precise volleys and the synths slosh around like water in a test tube, the former punch-drunk, the latter hazed-out. These sounds kern into one another, punctuated by the yelp of cartoonish cries and the whoosh of weird bodies speeding through the music.

“Perfect 2” rocks from side-to-side, built on an idiosyncratic center of gravity, tracing progressively wider arcs as it approaches a collapse that never arrives. Instead, the track straightens its back before striding forward confidently, its beat colorful and insistent, pressurized and precise, filling the crevices of its world with sound. Like putty, the track’s structure stretches and snaps as it moves, emitting yelps of pleasure/pain. Finally, “Blue Warm Up” tells the story of an organism waking up to itself, gaining consciousness as it becomes aware of its surroundings, stretching its feelers and hurling its perception outwards as flurries of sound — swelling harp, pitted synth — whip around its head. The track blooms slowly, its sounds grasping, kneading and treading the earth: a compressed sonic history of a computer-generated civilization moving, crying, laughing.

Taken as a whole, Blinks can be thought of as a series of excursions into emergent worlds that are remote from, but connected to, our own. These worlds are animated by a desire to grow and change, to reformulate themselves as they develop, altering their atmosphere and gravity, mutating with the help of drum and synth, the noises of cartoons and animals. Toxe has refined her sound to create an embedded music, attentive to that which it is contingent upon, that which it can touch and feel, a music that is febrile, alive.