Once more Eilean Rec has found a gem. Toàn (real name Anthony Elfort) is a French electronic musician based in the UK. As a beatmaker, he has produced several albums mixing jazz and hip hop influences under the pseudonym of Qiwu Selftet. With the change of name to Toàn the focus is now on freer musical forms, close to ambient and modern classical. His first album “Histós Lusis” (which translates to “He Played Histos”) was constructed without using any synths and entirely composed by samples found on old records, live instruments and field recordings. The album was composed between 2015 and 2017 in Angoulême and Cruguel in France.
The album has a feel of a well crafted cinematic mix of elements like every single structure, instrument and style was carefully thought out and executed well. This is not an album rushed or one to rush through. The pace of the album is very gentle and it flows smoothly.
“Inland” combines water sounds with chimes, clips or fragments of sounds, drones, violin, horns and bells to create a percussive mix of elements that mold together and overlap each other in a flowing motion. The mix of field recordings including the water work well amongst the more mysterious sounds that are generated from both the fragments and the violin.
“Post Tenebras” (“After Dark”) opens sounding like something from Canadian duo Hanged Up, before vinyl crackle and piano are joined by bells, triangles, oriental sounding wind instruments and strings to give the track a very cinematic feel. The pace is relatively slow, with elements slowly filtering in and out with the strings steering the track through the elements.
“Une Touche De Pluie” (“One touch of Rain”) naturally starts with a storm clattering on pots and pans catching the rain with this long dense drone with a sound that reminds me of Marconi Union. The drone is elongated and fills out the sound with waves and pulses and is overlapped. It’s like a pebble being thrown into water and as it ripples out, the next ripple starts forming. Slow cutting violin intersects with micro elements of percussion before martial like free jazz drumming and mournful noir violin and scrapping percussion bring the track to the end.
“Ghostly Ballet” starts almost like the previous track ends with a scrape of a gong, brushed cymbals, clattering noises, alarm noises, static noise, piano alongside horns, violin and a muffled shimmering drone that rises and keeps building up with a variety of percussive devices creating a cacophony of sound before dropping out. The sound landscape becomes formed with the sounds of running water, harp, violin, plucked Asian instruments, bells, chimes, drums and humming underlying tone. Elements collide with so many sounds that the track covers many genres from free jazz, ambient, sound art, Electroacoustic and bears the artist’s Jazz and Hip Hop past.
“Plume” adds piano over broken beat looped crunchy sounds, scraped metal sounds, field recordings, bells and violins. The piano segment has a ‘running feel’ which is joined by fragments of jazz drumming, growing string drones, metal Neubauten-esque percussion and the regular paced bell. There is a post apocalyptic feel without it degenerating into an industrial pastiche. There is a strong feel of loneliness and isolation, but with out total melancholy that would render the track bleak.
“अरोड़ा” ( Hindi for “Aurora”) mines the Basinski territory with subtlety crafted ambient loops that are then joined by static, mournful flute, with buried micro elements like strings, percussion, harp, glitches that slowly build over the languid pace of the loops. There is something relaxing listening to something that appears to be growing organically while you listen.
“Unsolved” stabs of piano travel out in ripple effect over vinyl crackles before muted horn punctuations, waves of ambient Synth, glide above the piano. Asian percussion and string instruments change the feeling of the track from a smoky droning jazz track to one colluding with Chinese classical music down a dark and mysterious alley way.
“Une Si Délicate Tempête” (“A Stunning Storm”) is the longest track on the album clocking in at 12:43 and the sound pallet matches the title with its volume and its depth of sound. What appears to be a kaleidoscope of grainy sounds, violin and field recordings clatter and glitch about with ebbs and flows much like a real storm where there is a a break before the template changes to a more Electroacoustic ambient sound and then veers into broken piano and strings with the granular drones and sounds returning before the calm is over. At first the track tends to lead you to an expectation that is turned on its head around the four minute mark, which in a way sums up this album as a whole.
While quite different to his Jazz/Hip Hop work “Histós Lusis” shows Toàn’s ability to create vibrant sounding records that show a richness to sound, which in this case was expertly mastered by label boss Mathias Van Eecloo. Although physically sold out at the label it is available via the artist and soon Stashed Goods or Experimedia.