TOKiMONSTA / Made In Heights / Borealis

Drake Hotel, Toronto ON, October 9

TOKiMONSTA / Made In Heights / BorealisDrake Hotel, Toronto ON, October 9
Photo: Shane Parent
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"You didn't tell me there was a big band booked tonight," an older Drake Hotel employee asked another. "There isn't, it's actually DJs," the other replied.

With its short show lengths, the Drake Hotel has always been a peculiar venue for electronic music in Toronto. Whatever the reason people may choose to see dance music shows there, the venue manages to sell out regularly, as was the case with TOKiMONSTA's latest performance with Borealis and Made In Heights.

A leather jacket-clad Jesse Somfay (Borealis) opened the show with the most progressive set of the evening. His all-hardware, debut live performance as Borealis found the Canadian musician mixing broken beats with his distinct, cavernous synth fifths, often meandering into experimental improvisations that neglected traditional techno and dance floor structure in favour of more intellectually stimulating vignettes. Though he was the opener, it's a shame the volume of his set was the lowest of the night, as his experiments would have turned more heads and likely brought him even more listeners had they been performed at a higher decibel level.

Following Somfay's set, American duo Made in Heights took the stage to a significant increase in volume, capturing the attention of the now substantial audience with their vocal-led sound. Kelsey Bulkin's often poppy vocal style is well suited to the group's hip-hop infused, skittering hi-hat leanings, which both translate well in a live setting; the audience replied accordingly with applause during each break between songs.

Headliner TOKiMONSTA was last to perform, opening her DJ set with a rather bland mix of Lupe Fiasco's 2006 track "Kick, Push." While at times the lovely left-of-centre eccentricities of TOKiMONSTA's own production style shone through her mixes, her track selection was extensive, and she did not dwell on any single track for very long. Her bass-heavy, energetic set seemed filled with too many commercial dance music clichés and sounds for some audience members, though others seemed satisfied with her uptempo mixes.

The L.A.-based musician played the Drake crowd well, but her selections seemed stuck in "safe mode," offering few new approaches to the art of DJing and instead providing a rather conventional set of bass-driven electronic music.

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