ALBUM REVIEW/Dominic Valvona

viA fAntAsticA ‘2 Any 1’
29th March 2021

Infrequently appearing on the Monolith Cocktail radar over the years, the Welsh ‘pop concrete’ maverick Justin Toland has thus far shared with us a sixteen-minute wistful, magical suite in aid of promoting the Agent Of Change law that ensues live music venues have protection in the event of noise complaints; furnished us with a disconsolate score for the mystical bard Arthur Machen’s fabled ghost story legend metaphor on the horrors of WWI; and appeared as part of a whole disarray of Welsh compatriot avant-garde electronic explorers on the Gwenno Saunders curated CAM 1 compilation: Toland’s contribution to this magnificent showcase, a Throbbing Gristle burble called ‘Caution’.

All three were filed under Toland’s Location Baked alias, but on the latest, quite generous, project it’s now the uppercase ‘A’ stuck viA fAntAsticA. The fantastical Toland is joined, some of the way, by an imaginary foil, the druid vocalist Gaia de Voxx, whose voice is like the bastardized offspring of Add N To X’s android friend and the now redundant alter ego vocoder affected robotics of Daft Punk.

Framed as some kind of ‘imaginary soundtrack to a 21st century kitchen-sink drama set in the faded seaside resort of Porthcawl’, the 2 Any 1 album does seem to have, well…an almost faded nostalgic sound: part retro-futurism, part lo fi psychedelic, and another part, a fond if removed, nod to the rave era. In fact, and to be honest, Toland more or less touches upon most synthesized and electronic music movements of the last forty plus years; going as far back as the forgotten Library cult mavericks so beloved by the KPM label, and the Kosmische developments of Germany’s Sky Records set in the 70s, especially Asmus Tretchens, who rubs up against a popcorn-popping Space and The Normal on the early synth bobbing opener ‘Bamboo’.  By the following track, ‘Serikultur 80’, he’s already shifted the sound to Casio preset percussive saunters and bleaker Sheffield electronica Ballard: think early Mute Records and a more morbidly obsessive Human League. Not that this is one of those self-serving, knowing kinds of records, the influences are all there but woven into a coherent odyssey that is used to soundtrack a lifetime of experience, strung-out on a Welsh coastline.

In all that magical electronica and memory the 2 Any 1 album contains a diorama of characters and concerns (both political and societal). The sounds, even field recordings (one such recording is from a Save Guilford Crescent demo) of activism, preservation and community can be heard permeating throughout. It’s not pushed, nor is this an obvious soundtrack of protestation, plaintive agonizing or scorn, but it is there.

To borrow in some degree that moniker, this twenty-one track album is indeed a ‘fantastical’ woozy and halcyon album that dreamily draws in a memory pool of soulful Chicago House, Trip-Hop, Italo House, Trance, d’n’b, electro, pop and most surprising, a sound that Toland’s PR spill calls Puerto-Rican electronic-indie – which I think I can actually hear. And so you may at any one time hear illusions to Yazoo, Plug, Aphex Twin, Bruno Spoeri, Luke Vibret, and on the swimmingly acid-wash travelogue ‘Swim-Up Bar Blues’, an Ibiza gatecrashing 808 State.

Toland’s mind is let loose and the results are actually quite fluid, with some really lovely touches, melodies and kept-in-check breaks on what is an ambitious undertaking. You could even say that this album was in some ways a culmination of his life’s work: a showcase that takes in more or less every strand, influence and inspiration. It’s most importantly a great hallucinogenic and rich electronic mystery tour dance album of possibilities, dreams, intoxications and reflections.

See also…

Location Baked   ‘Agents Of Change’

Location Baked  ‘The Bowman’

Various  ‘CAM 1’

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog monolithcocktail.com For the last ten years I’ve featured and supported music, musicians and labels we love across genres from around the world that we think you’ll want to know about. No content on the site is paid for or sponsored and we only feature artists we have genuine respect for /love. If you enjoy our reviews (and we often write long, thoughtful ones), found a new artist you admire or if we have featured you or artists you represent and would like to buy us a coffee at https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

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