I’ve been following Jonti since meeting him at a gig by one of his other musical outlets, the rather excellent indie-pop Sherlock’s Daughter. In that outfit, he floats around his keyboard, doodles electro-squiggles on his DS and, if memory serves me correctly, whips out the trumpet every now and then. There, he is the reserved, retiring member of what is an otherwise relatively extroverted group. Since then, he’s garnered considerable local acclaim, first as Danimals, then as Djanimals and now, finally, to avoid confusion with similarly titled artists, just his first name. In that journey, he’s won a competition which saw him work with the likes of Mark Ronson, Santigold and Sean Lennon in New York and also gained the attention of Peanut Butter Wolf, leading him to be the first (and, currently, only) Australian artist on the Stones Throw roster. Now with the release of his dÃ©but album, Twirligig, the question is – is the acclaim warranted?
The short answer is, yes. It’s hard not to be entranced by the lilting, quirky, sample groove that Jonti produces. There’s a strong link to earlier Australian legends The Avalanches, with a similar abstract hip-hop basis, a kaleidescope of sample based textures, beats and sound effects, with lots of vinyl crackle seeping through the cracks. He’s internalised some of wonky’s wayward lurch in the grooves. Bleepy synthesis is also ever present, with hook lines often coming via some squelchy, lo-fi electronic source. What makes the album succeed most, is a true balance of creative, experimental production, irresistable grooves and some of the sweetest melodic lines you can imagine, which trick you into thinking the strange undergrowth of bits and pieces is some of the most accessible music you’ve ever heard. Quite a feat. The album doesn’t really have highlights, as such. It is a consistent work which holds its mood while exploring a wide range of possibilities within that. A couple of the tracks that have floated around as earlier released singles do stand out, but I dare say that’s merely because of my familiarity with them. As I listen to the album more and more, I’m pretty certain they will take their place as equals amongst the entire work.
My only real reservation with the album is that Jonti often seems to cut his ideas short. The 14 tracks clock up just over half an hour of playtime, giving an indication of each track’s brief length. This gives the impression that Jonti seems a bit uncertain of the value of his own ideas, a reluctance to risk truly exploring each piece, lest the audience yawn and switch off. So, many tracks actually fade out after a couple of brief minutes, rather than resolve and end. They sound truncated, like sketches. Which is a great shame, because they each have enough happening, enough melodic strength and sonic interest, to go the distance. Perhaps, however, Jonti is simply utilising the traditional adage, leave the audience wanting more. Because Twirligig certainly succeeds in doing that.