CD, Hymen Records, 2009
Tonikom’s sophomore release on Hymen Records, “The Sniper’s Veil”, is a wholly satisfying exercise in breakbeats. By some accounts, New York-based Rachel Maloney has here at last matured her sound: bracing contrasts of technoid structures and evanescent ambient passages. Pulling inspiration from a variety of sources, Tonikom reflects the now familiar language of twenty-first-century electronic music – inter-genre, post-modifier and meta-taxonomic. Perhaps characteristic of what we have come to expect, though in this case patience and a pared-down approach enables its success. “The Sniper’s Veil” begins unhurriedly; a simple, extended intro sets the tone perfectly. When the crunchy breakbeats finally drop mid-song, the impact is immense. Carried forward, the remainder of the album likewise finds a well-paced balance.
In creating these intimate expanses with hypnotic tribal elements, Tonikom employs commanding breakbeat rhythms and mysterious, dare we say feminine, moods. Key to this is a vocal undercurrent present throughout the work, an aspect that invites the listener to wander its interior spaces, drawing calm energy from this comforting presence. Voices range from ritualistic chant to choral upwelling and symphonic inflection, from the wordless lullaby of “Temporarius Delerium” to the fleeting angels in “The Source”, offering an anchor or link to the music’s chambered heart. Floating, enveloping and womb-like, “The Sniper’s Veil” is an eyes-closed experience, one that expresses music as simultaneously meditative and invigorating. Exemplar “In the Far” is a towering piece, deep vibrations layered into a plush trance digression that is flawless in its subliminal, airy spaces and insistent push.
Tonikom also connects in a curious and sentimental manner, especially apparent in “Watching From Here” and “Fluorescence”, where a music box melody sifts through the beats and glitch to create a bit of through-the-looking-glass surreality. Like tendrils of dreams, it implies a narrative aspect to an album that seems otherwise resolute in its gorgeous detachment. A similar melodic element gives “Gap-Toothed Martyr” its hook; combine this with exotic singing, bass drops and an infectious tribal rhythm, and the track ranks among the album’s most deeply satisfying. Speaking of bass, it is certainly a strongpoint for Tonikom; best heard in the resonant “Peripheral Movement”, the swooping “Of Those Great Walls” and in “The Source”, which happens to be the album’s only real foray into drum’n’bass. Unfortunately, it is also the album’s weakest track. Despite this, everything appearing on Tonikom’s latest shows fantastic cohesion, simplicity, musicianship and, it must be said, an intriguingly feminine essence.
— Dutton Hauhart