As TOKiMONSTA, California producer Jennifer Lee’s charted a fascinating career over the past seven years, and Lune Rouge is her exhilarating next step. The third proper long-player from TOKiMONSTA is both a logical progression of her sound and as surprising left turn from an artist that rarely ceases to surprise. A smoky, patient, and altogether lovely collection, Lune Rouge mixes modern sensibilities with old-school sounds to make a heady brew of moonlit music.
Lee’s work as TOKiMONSTA gained widespread recognition from the very start: her 2010 debut album, Midnight Menu, saw release on Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder imprint and cemented her reputation as a formidable presence of the then emerging West Coast beat scene. 2011’s Brainfeeder release Creature Dreams EP expanded on Midnight Menu’s palette with successful forays into vocal-led cuts thanks to the presence of regular collaborator Gavin Turek; the 2013 LP and Ultra Music debut Half Shadows found Lee exploring darker shades of her sound with guests such as Kool Keith and MNDR in tow.
Following Half Shadows’ release, Lee collaborated with artists like Jessie Ware, Anderson .Paak, and Kelly Rowland, while also putting out several records on her own Young Art Records imprint that served as practical blueprints for the dusky environs of Lune Rouge. Mini-albums Desiderium from 2014 and last year’s FOVERE elegantly deployed pitch-shifted vocal samples to add new textures to the TOKiMONSTA sound, and in 2015 she added her capable touch to Turek’s own mini-album, You’re Invited . All these roads lead to Lune Rouge, a lush work that stands as the summation of what she’sbeen cooking up since Half Shadows.
TOKiMONSTA’s sound has always kept one foot in the pop stratosphere, but Lune Rouge finds her diving in with glee. Her effervescent beats serve as the perfect framework for these gorgeous songs: Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna weaves in and out of water-droplet tones and a stuttering chipmunk’d sample on lead single “Don’t Call Me.” The MNDR-featuring “We Love” serves up perfect summer vibes with aquatic synth stabs and an instantly infectious chorus. Featuring a searing vocal take from Selah Sue, “I Wish I Could” fuses the clean-sounding classicism of contemporaries like Rhye with a buzzing throb that embodies the modern cool of contemporary R&B—and “No Way,” with features from Isaiah Rashad, Joey Purrp, and Ambre, sounds lovingly ripped from the dusty glory days of 90’s hip-hop.