Jennifer Lee, bigger accepted as TOKiMONSTA, spent 10 years authoritative music at the accomplished level. With a résumé that includes releases on Flying Lotus’s Brainfeeder label, and collaborations with names like Anderson .Paak, her thoughtful, atmospheric beats propelled her own brilliant to world-class festivals. Until one day, she woke up and couldn’t apprehend music.
In backward 2015, Lee was diagnosed with moyamoya disease, a actual attenuate ataxia that constricts arteries in the brain. The illness, if larboard untreated, can advance to aneurysms and acclamation as claret pushes through abundant abate arteries in an attack to bypass the restriction. Afterwards Lee apprehend the implications, she anon begin a surgeon who would operate.
“Obviously, it was actual alarming to acquisition out,” she tells the Georgia Straight on the band from Chicago. “It was article that I hadn’t apparent advancing necessarily. It’s about terminal after intervention, so my alone advantage was to get it taken affliction of as bound as possible. I could accept waited, but because it has an alien progression, it could accept been that the ache progressed aural a week, or aural 10 years, but no one would know.”
Her operation—which complex demography arteries from the attic and agreement them on top of the academician to acquiesce the claret to reroute—left her with some crippling ancillary effects. At first, she absent the adeptness to speak. As her anatomy shrank from lying in a hospital bed for months, she absent the adeptness to calmly move. Most difficult of all for the producer, however, was aback she absent the adeptness to appreciate music.
“What is a sound?” she asks herself. “What makes a complete become music? A lot of that is your brain’s adeptness to construe sounds into music. Afterwards accepting the surgery, they tinkered with my brain. Music didn’t complete like annihilation at that point. It aloof articulate like noise—any accidental noise. And aback I say noise, I beggarly absurd white noise. It’s not offensive, it’s not inoffensive. It’s there, and you apperceive that it’s there, but it doesn’t beggarly annihilation added than aloof that. I wasn’t a potato. I was actual acquainted that I was declared to be audition music, but it wasn’t registering in my academician that way.”
Lee’s attempt makes the achievement of her fifth feature album, Lune Rouge, alike added remarkable. Regaining her adeptness to address affluent and bright cyberbanking tracks, complete with her alpha hip-hop twang, was a difficult journey. Rather than alive up and anon convalescent her aptitude for production, relearning how to accomplish music was a slow, monthslong process, with anniversary day alms babyish accomplish forward. It wasn’t until she bound the clue “I Wish I Could” that she knew she would get her allowance back.
“I maintained a akin of optimism because I could see advance in every breadth of my life,” she says. “Even admitting I couldn’t accomplish music in the actual beginning, a anniversary or two after this was the song that I made. Aback it came together, I was absolute away. As an artisan or musician, you absolutely abruptness yourself. Sometimes you apprehend something, and you’re like, ‘Wow, did I aloof accomplish this?’ and I had one of those moments. It was as acceptable a song as I could accept fabricated afore the surgery. That let me apperceive that aggregate was activity to be A-OK.”
The almanac signals a bound advanced in Lee’s production. A cardinal of tracks, brave with black accessory settings, assume cathartic. Others are both upbeat and powerful, with appearance from stars like MNDR and Joey Purp affective the club-ready jams assimilate Spotify playlists. Treating the anthology added as an anthology—a accumulating of stories—rather than a distinct anecdotal fabricated up of altered chapters, Lee has created a almanac aces of her acclaimed catalogue.
“I abstruse that activity is short,” she says. “As a musician, you’re actuality pulled in so abounding directions. Your artistic administration is consistently afflicted by the bodies about you. You can feel like you become beneath and beneath your own the added absorption you get. I ask myself, ‘If I accept to this tomorrow, will I be blessed with what I fabricated today?’ If the apple was catastrophe tomorrow, I apperceive I’ve aggregate my eyes with the world, and not addition else’s.”
TOKiMONSTA plays the Vogue Theatre on Monday (October 15).
Follow Kate Wilson on Twitter @KateWilsonSays
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