Robin Hatch: T.O.N.T.O. (Robin Records, 2021)

October 26, 2021 at 5:59 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Robin Hatch: T.O.N.T.O.

Robin Hatch’s new album was born out of 4 days of recording sessions using the storied T.O.N.T.O. multitimbral polyphonic analog synthesizer at the National Music Gallery in Calgary, perhaps best known as the namesake of T.O.N.T.O.’s Expanding Head Band, and through incorporation on several Stevie Wonder albums. Hatch crafted several melodic instrumental gems, leaving some of then unaccompanied, and inviting guests to add further perspectives on others. The solo tracks, like the chiming synthscape “Buttercups”, work fine enough on their own, but as massive as the T.O.N.T.O. synth is, there’s still something a bit primitive about its sound, so having additional instruments helps add more tonal colors and extra dimensions. “Brazil” is sort of an easy fusion-prog workout with drummer Eric Slick (Dr. Dog) and saxophonist Leland Whitty (BadBadNotGood). “Airplane” is more of a horror score frightscape, with doom metal violin by Laura Bates. Lowell Whitty drums on “Inspector”, a sort of aerobic new wave track, which is perhaps the most fun selection on the album. “Mockingbird” (with Nick Thorburn) is also one of the more synth-pop-ish tracks here. After the paranoid “My Lucid Mind” and the more propulsive “Rest Stop”, “The Standoff” (with Joseph Shabason) feels like the suspenseful lead-up to a boss battle.

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