Releasing on Atlanta’s Geographic North, Tokonoma is a tape of synthesizer music from Jon Porras (Barn Owl, Portraits). Tokonoma is his fifth solo release and his first since 2014’s Light Divide. Snappy and bright notes shine out from the record at once, instantly rewarding the listener. The music has had a period of refinement and gestation, and the longer wait has paid off.
Instead of being stuck in a muddy interregnum and stagnating over a stretch of silent, ineffective years, the music has no trouble kicking things off, never breaking a sweat as it advances. Instant progress is made, transitioning at once to a brighter, more colourful framework. The shadowy textures have disappeared (well…not entirely), but even when the darker, grittier tones make an appearance, they don’t dominate the record for long. The brighter tones are raised high like battle flags; the sound as a whole wants to embrace a warmer, sunshine-fuelled future and prove the doubters wrong.
Staccato beams of bright light wash over the listener, stuttering back and forth between lines of eclipsed light and all-too-brief slits of revelation. The record is more than just a glimpse of a promising future, though Tokonoma’s music points to a general musical truth: the brighter the tone, the more optimistic it appears. This isn’t a diluted feeling, either, because at times this optimism blossoms into something close to pure euphoria.
Recording to the medium of tape always helps – textures are deeper and richer, and there’s no doubt that tape favours synthesized music. The two are a perfect combination. Other tones are as cool as the other side of the pillow, with the spacious and space-like tones of ‘Still Life’ giving off darker vibes and draughty textures washed in ice-coated waters of reverb. An ambient glue sticks everything together, the atmosphere pulsating as it coalesces.