From Paul Lester's Band of the Day column over at Guardian.co.uk, published August 25, 2011.
The lineup: Jonti (music, instruments, production).
The background: Good label, Stones Throw. Really good. They handle some of the late J Dilla's catalogue as well as several artists we've written about here at New Band of the Day including excellent retro-soulboy Mayer Hawthorne and, more recently, the uncategorisable James Pants and the Stepkids. Put it this way: if we had to nail Stones Throw's aesthetic, well, we'd need a lot of nails. It's playful but serious, into sampling, cutting up and repurposing the music of the past, with one eye on the future. They have a psychedelic attitude towards R&B, or maybe they just like their psych soulful. And their acts have a pop lightness of touch, throwing breezy harmonies into the mix when you least expect. Mostly you get a sense of artists – and remember, their roster includes Madlib – almost pathologically incapable of staying still, exponents one and all of St Vitus dance-pop.
Jonti is a perfect fit for Stones Throw. A multi-instrumentalist, arranger, producer and vocalist from South Africa, currently living in Australia, he amassed old vinyl with a zeal to make the Avalanches seem like barely concerned crate-diggers. He's worked with Mark Ronson, Santigold, Sean Lennon, the Dap-Kings, as well as producer John Agnello (Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr, Kurt Vile) and Albert Hammond Jr of the Strokes. But his debut album for Stones Throw, Twirligig, is an entirely self-played and self-produced affair, written and recorded under the influence of everyone from Madlib to Stereolab and Free Design. So you get a hip-hopper's approach to harmony pop, with an added childlike visual sense that comes from Jonti's love of cartoonist/film-maker Norman McLaren, whose animations were, Jonti explains, "complex, but still fun".
That fun complexity is immediately evident from Twirligig, and responses to it have been suitably gleeful. It made one radio host "feel like drawing a picture, with watercolors and maybe crayon – colourful, abstract, youthfully curious and open to interpretation". A writer felt compelled to "invoke mobiles hung over cots" after exposure to its infantile dementia. We felt much the same after listening to the delightfully silly sampladelia of the track Nodlews Way Home with its off-kilter funkiness (is that a 17/3 rhythm?). You really can imagine children – babies, even – liking this stuff, and it is stuff: gorgeously gooey, gunky funk-pop, the sort of thing you want to squelch between your fingers or smear into shapes on a whiteboard. Wherever you alight – whether it's the mellow exotica of Nightshift in Blue or the Lewis Taylor-ish Smiley Smileyness of Koi Moon's Daughter – you're sure to wind up with a big grin on your face. The title track essays a new form of music – glitchy lounge – while Frightened Mice (Dots) isn't so much clicks'n'cuts as clicks'n'cute. Begone Slumber suggests a funkadelic Free Design, 14 Passaros conjures up 1966 Brian Wilson in a sandpit with those pioneers of Warp(ed) kiddietronica, Plone, and Firework Spraying Moon is two minutes of ecstatic jauntiness. Or as it shall now be known, Jontiness.
The truth: He's a stones throw away from childlike brilliance.
Most likely to: Induce good vibrations.
Least likely to: Induce bad karma about fires.
What to buy: Twirligig will be released by Stones Throw on 18 October.
File next to: Madlib, High Llamas, Free Design, Plone.
JONTI ARTIST PAGE