Sunday, 25 March 2018

EP: Tooka - Tooka

Tooka - Dublin

Info: Tooka are a three piece band from Dublin, Ireland that was formed in 2018. The band consists of Dónal Sharpson (Piano, Vocals, Production), Ben Higgins (Vocals, Guitar) and Jack Gamble (Vocals, Guitar). Tooka combines the acoustic singer-songwriter genre with experimental electronic production. The trio bring something new to the table with extremely melodic piano playing, accompanied by two guitars and all three of them singing in a harmony filled, drone-like fashion. Tooka's sound is reminiscent of Bon Iver, The XX and even Aphex Twin.

Tooka began when Dónal Sharpson found himself writing songs with light hearted, programmatic lyrics and couldn't find a place for them in his other various electronic music projects. He decided to record them in 2017 under the name 'Tooka'. In early 2018, Dónal got in touch with Ben Higgins, whom he had met in Mater Dei Institute studying music. He asked Ben to help him perform these 'Tooka' songs live. When searching for a third member, Ben suggested his old band-mate Jack Gamble to join the group. The trio have begun writing and performing together since the beginning of 2018 and continue to do so. 

I often think of all of the layers of music that I have accumulated since childhood to today, a trajectory beginning with pop, rap and rave, then 60's music, then Britpop, then the palate began to expand into instrumental and electronic, and I suppose over the past decade it's been a mixture of everything really. That spectrum shapes what appeals to us on an individual basis, and every now and again I hear something that sounds like it was made for the centre of my musical Venn diagram. The debut EP from collective Tooka is one such piece of music.

'Bogotá' is already a track that I know with certainty will be one of my favourite Irish songs this year. The ambience across the EP is one of downtempo and contemplative calm, piano reminding me a bit of something you might hear on Moby's Everything Is Wrong from 1995, whilst the vocals and mood drift around James Yuill or those rare light-hearted moments of Sufjan Stevens'. The trio have done such a great job here of placing electronic beats, piano and weary vocals side by side, and it's incredibly pleasing on the ear.

'Dirt' initially focuses on a sparse folk-tinged delivery, with a notable drop of Americana, images of two troubadours looking out the window of a cabin in the middle of a sprawling plain. The electronic sound unfolds gradually from the centre before coming back inwards and surrounding the vocals until they are akin to a fading radio transmission overtaken by static, but they don't fight it, or seemingly even notice it.

On final track 'The Flower of Utah', piano and drum-pad keep the ship steady, similar in sound to Four Tet's less chaotic and non-conventional rhythmic style, the harmonies are beguiling, giving off a warmth which is matched by the tone of the music itself. Overall a sense of well-being and departure from the present abound. Tooka have compiled three tracks here that compliment each other in a very caring and harmonious manner, I enjoyed the fact that they stuck to their vision of the type of mood they wanted to create and didn't deviate from that path, leaving us with a continuous mellow strain of sound from start to finish, what's also exciting is that they've left themselves a huge amount of room to shoot off on various experimental tangents here, the first small splashes of colour on a willing canvas. 

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