Tokyo Prose – Wild Grace Track By Track Breakdown
A project that started life as an EP on Soul:r before Marcus’ tragic passing has blossomed into Tokyo Prose’s highly-awaited sophomore album, Wild Grace.
Out now on Lenzman’s North Quarter imprint, Wild Grace sees the New Zealand-based producer back in brilliant form, once again taking us on a soulful journey deep into his musical psyche. A journey we’ve waited years for with his quality-over-quantity approach to releases, it’s been whole 4 years since his stunning debut album on Samurai landed. With such lengthy periods between releases, one can’t help but hang off of every note, savouring each arrangement as it flutters through with pure class and elegance; a reaction that’s inevitable with such an exquisite body of work.
13 tracks deep, it showcases the signature sound he’s renowned for, with some delightful surprises along the way. Never afraid to explore new sounds and approaches to his craft, Wild Grace is a testament to Tokyo Prose’s artistic range; soulful, rolling, powerful, raw and downright inspired, it’s yet another masterclass in finesse and emotive production. Simply put, it was well worth the wait.
He takes us behind the album track by track, revealing the story behind each tune. Press play and savour each note…
Ascension (ft. Race Banyon)
Race Banyon is the alter ego of Kiwi musician Eddie Johnstone aka Lontalius. He’s super talented and his music always has a certain vulnerability and sensitivity to it. Something I think drum and bass could always use a bit more of. This track came together very naturally and was an obvious opener for the album. I was keen to get him to sing on it but it wasn’t possible in the end. The purpose of the track is to sort of signal the start of a journey.
I was lucky that this track wrote itself. From finding the sample and loading it into Ableton, the track would of been finished in under an hour. It’s a simple piano roller with all the Tokyo Prose trademarks. This is easily one of my favourite tracks that I’ve written I was really excited to hear that it was played early on in the dBridge and Calibre set at Hospitality on the Beach the other week. It has also been well supported by Lenzman, LSB and SpectraSoul. The title of the track is a reference to the classic Thelonious Monk album.
Lift You Up (feat. Steo)
Steo is one of my favourite singers so I was super stoked to get him on the album. I was actually trying to get Steo on my first album but we weren’t able to make it to work in the end. An early instrumental version of this track got a bit of attention but I think Steo’s vocals lift (excuse the pun) the track to another level and I really like how the mix of floating synths and soft vocals work together.
This track was probably brought to most people’s attention when it was featured on Calibre’s BBC Radio 1 Essential Mix last year. I was in two minds when I wrote it and the original working title was even “Yeah… nah”. I’m glad that I persevered with the track and finished it because it’s garnered a lot of attention and I’m really proud of it.
I tend to use piano samples a lot in my music but I surprised myself and played the main piano riff for this one. I then paired it up with a little horn sample and another piano riff and there ya go. The music I write is inherently simple this relies on a couple of key elements that really compliment each other and this song is good example of that. The track title references the natural feeling and movement i’m always trying to achieve with my music.
This is the only track written with the idea of an album in mind. It’s a sort of interlude based around reverseved pianos with some sparse interwoven percussion. The track name alludes to a break in the pace of the album. A peaceful moment amongst the rolling percussion of the surrounding tracks.
A cheeky soul sample pitched down a few semitones and looped. This was a slightly older track that Lenzman and I dusted off and rebuilt with the drums from another track I had written.
Runaway (feat. [ K S R ])
There’s a massive amount of excitement surrounding [ K S R ] at the moment and it doesn’t take much to figure out why. He is an amazing singer and is going places fast. The original synth riff was inspired by a Brother Johnson song but the use of LFO and filter totally transforms the feel of the progression. I actually wrote this song and Brilliant Corners in the same weekend. When you’re on you’re on I guess… Because I had just written Brilliant Corners I was keen to take the track in a much different direction and thus the more sparse percussion and more stripped back feel. The [ K S R ] vocal ended up getting added much later and I think he did an amazing job. When Lenzman and I heard his initial sketch we both flipped…
Trick of the Light
It’s sometimes difficult to explain a track without vocals as the entire song is based around chasing an implicit feeling. This song for me speaks for itself and I really love it’s vibe. The main piano chords are replayed from one of the most famous jazz albums of all time. My style of writing is predominantly a collage of samples and this track is no different. I surprised myself with the mixdown for this track as it turns out it’s a bit of a hurter on a big system. The track title is intended to reference the idea of the different elements of the song creating the illusion of something more than the parts it comprises. My favourite part of the track is how a couple of different piano samples play off each other just before the initial drop.
Back to You
I really like the idea of taking a vocal sample and totally rearranging and restructuring it until it’s something completely new. That’s kinda what happened on this track. The vocal was the last thing to be added to the track but it’s soft, fragile and airy and defines the track. This one is another sample collage and captures the feeling I love about Drum and Bass of lush pianos and samples juxtaposed against a bed of rolling drum breaks.
Cold Hearts (feat. Cleveland Watkiss)
This track started life as an ambient tune, I later added drums and eventually was lucky enough to get a feature from the amazing Cleveland Watkiss. Cleveland is a legend in the scene and when Lenzman asked me about people I wanted to get on the album, Cleveland was right at the top of the list. The track relies heavily on super slowed down samples, stretched into ambient drones. A super easy technique but crazy effective.
In the Breeze (feat. LSB)
A little while a go LSB, Lenzman and I set up a shared Dropbox to try and get some collaborations going. We didn’t manage to get going but this track LSB and I did managed to get written. I not sure whether Lenzman even opened the Dropbox, haha… I think this track is a nice mix of our two styles. Some heavily manipulated samples are used in this track and they’re pushed right to breaking point.
Tremble (ft. Nether)
This one is a heavy synth stepper co-written with Sydney-sider Nether. His output has always been amazing and has a deep dub techno influence. He’s released a few songs and has a bit of a niche following. I tried to pair his techno sound with a harder dancefloor edge and I think it turned out well. It’s got that Marcus feeling to it so it was an honour to have him supporting it.
Another change of pace me. This track pays homage to a number of classic breaks that rush and out of the tune, thus the title ‘Gusts’. It’s got an early dnb feel to it which is what I was going for. A natural fit to close the album.
Wild Grace is out now on The North Quarter – get it here