CD Review: Toca Loca: p*p

Toca Loca: p*p

Centrediscs CMCCD 15009

I could say something about the fact that the Dadaistic word setting of Myra Davies’s No Time and Andrew Staniland’s Made in China simultaneously recall both Chris Newman and William Brittelle. I could tell you that Aaron Gervais’s Shoot Like a Film Star ambitiously attempts to create a miniature opera from the unpromising libretto of a single spam email subject line.

But you know what, this is just a really great fun, genuinely kooky album from the young Canadian trio Toca Loca (Simon Docking, Aiyun Huang and Gregory Oh). It’s not weird in an ‘oh look, we’ve put bassoon and drums on the same track, we must be composers’ kind of way, it’s actually weird on a deeper I-don’t-know-what’s-going-on-a-lot-of-the-time kind of way. Geof Holbrook’s Pep Formula pushes the alt-classical stylistic tags over the edge into a world of time-stretched distortions and rhythmic warps that is really unsettling. Quinsin Nachoff’s Toca Loca uses a jazz-fusion-ish ensemble of piano, Rhodes piano and vibraphone as an excuse for loose solo-y excursions that drift further and further away from the subject. It’s like trying to hold a conversation with one person while trying to make eye contact with the gorgeous brunette at the bar.

There are twelve tracks by eleven composers here, all of a vaguely post-classical bent (Made in China gets a remix of sorts), but really genre spotting is a fool’s game on this disc: there are lots of albums around that sort of sound like this, but few with this canniness of po-mo melange. Time and again you’ll catch yourself listening to something ear-grabbing (some lounge jazz chords with sci-fi overtones) but with no idea how you got there (when you were sure you were listening to something sounding like early Andriessen). Possibly one of the cleverest, most unpredictable albums of its kind I’ve heard in a long while.

P.S. If you’re interested in hearing some of the tracks on the disc, be sure to check out the sounds and videos on Toca Loca’s site, which includes pieces by Fuhong Shi, Philippe Leroux and Liza Lim. Here’s a video of Andrew Staniland’s Made in China:

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