Real art takes time. It’s something that’s become more apparent as we’ve gotten older and found ourselves connected to people that create for a living. I’m not sure what we used to think about songs, especially in the mp3 snatch-and-grab age that gave birth to this publication, but perhaps they were just things that came together by magic. I know now that this isn’t true, and that some of the most beautiful work emerges from not being able to do the work, from struggling with the idea of you as the maker of the work, of whether the work is worthy at all. I’ve been lucky enough to know Jonti on and off for around a decade, and this has certainly been his blessing and curse. He sees musical ideas and melodies in punctuated neon bursts of colour, but it isn’t always so easy to get that onto the wax canvas. When I first heard ‘Rain’, in his garage studio at the end of the last year, I was stunned with how beautiful it was. But perhaps more amazing was Jonti’s admission that the song had taken a long time, and he hadn’t considered releasing it until his label head, Peanut Butter Wolf, had convinced him it was a necessity.
Jonti’s best work, both in his solo guise and more recently as an honorary member of The Avalanches, expresses a sort of unashamed exuberance about living, even in sadness, that is exceptionally rare. Characteristically soaked in falsetto harmonies and warm sounds wrung from hours of tinkering with keyboards both analog and digital, they recalibrate the brain of a listener, even if only briefly. Inspired, among other things, by the beat maker legacy of the Stone’s Throw label, many of Jonti’s more innovative works are also the shortest; single cell illustrations that contain all the goodness within. It’s a deference to the likes of Dilla and Madlib, but also the understanding that a simple break crafted to perfection can really change lives. Because he layers vertically, there’s often an incredible amount of detail in only a few seconds of a Jonti track. What makes ‘Rain’ special is that it stretches this into a full-blown suite, adding more ideas along the way. Ostensibly, it’s a song about grief, but it’s equally a celebration of life.
I’ve retired the word ‘swoon’ from my musical vocabulary of late because I found it was losing it’s meaning. But there really is no other way to describe the interplay of vocals and harmonic motifs on ‘Rain’, with a tripartite Jonti gliding in from another altitude. It’s so pretty to listen to, especially when accompanied by that expertly curated, loping beat, but it’s also emotional. You don’t have to recalibrate much to realise that a lot of pain – and time – went into making this sound so glorious. With every repetition of the main theme comes another surprise nestled into the mix, a tinkering of piano, some strings, a suddenly insistent bass line. To think this piece almost went unfinished and unreleased. What a shame that would have been.