The debut album from group A's Tommi Tokyo is an illusory marvel made up of snatched half-heard voices, ritualistic rhythms, digi-fucked power electronics and emetic sci-fi drones. Impossible to classify, incredible to absorb - like Vainio, Stockhausen, Anima, Porter Ricks and Ramleh playing in a small room.
Since 2012, Tokyo-based duo group A have been toying with the concept of performance, attempting to melt various art styles - from body art and live painting to noise and performance - into their jaw-dropping live sets. Tommi Tokyo strikes out solo with "Senno I", her debut under the Tot Onyx moniker that appears a couple of years after an impressive collaboration with Hiro Kone emerged on "More Light", 2020's Berlin Atonal box set. Alone, Tommi is able to approach her art from a more personal, even biographical angle. She describes the record as a "study of her interior life", and played from beginning to end it feels like being plugged into someone's brain as it dumps its most polar content, "Johnny Mnemonic" style.
Each track appears to comb through a different cortex: opener 'Voice Calling' juxtaposes her voice with distant ritual drums, cyber-animal gurgles and plucked strings; 'A Leaf Laughs' is distorted close-mic'ed fauna crunches set against low-end rumbles; and the lengthy 'Inhabitants of Brain' is a dial-up powered flicker of faint floppy disk buzzes, indecipherable voices and nauseating electronic burbles. The album shifts into a different gear when it hits 'a-h5n1', referencing the flu subtype to help evoke a crushing mood punctuated by ketamized percussion, dissonant string scrapes and retching industrial noise.
It's a record that's honest enough to capture the ugliness and cavernous depth of the mind; all its beauty is inevitably snatched away to be buried by guttural screams or digitally rehashed machine belches. Any rhythm - which emerges frequently and pointedly - is disrupted by Isdn cable interference or ghostly muttering. At its best, the record tips fully into cyberpunk dystopia, coming across like a ghastly simulacrum of recent Porter Ricks transmissions and Slikback on the submerged 'Maggots' and pneumatic 'Plague'. The latter is a particular highlight, electro-plating acoustic drums and forming them into stuttering error-pools of post-Schematic grit and grind.
It's a harrowing journey, tipped to William Gibson fans or anyone who scoures the lower levels of Discogs for rare Japanese improv.