Music by VICE

Toronto's LA timpa Finds Clarity in Distortion on Debut EP 'Animal'

Watch the Harmony Korine-influenced lo-fi video for the title track of the experimental artist's upcoming release.

by Max Mertens
Mar 23 2016, 7:34pm

Kristie Muller

In today's internet age, maintaining anonymity when you're a musician is harder than ever, with message boards and comment threads dedicated to fans trying to figure out the identities of their favourite electronic producers (just ask Burial or Zomby). When LA timpa released his first single last summer, the buzzing, hymnic "UU UU Animal," there was very little information about the artist, save that he hailed from Toronto and was inspired by Harmony Korine's 1997 cult classic Gummo.

Now he's set to release his debut EP, Animal (out April 15 on Slow Release), which includes five tracks ranging from ambient electro-pop to harsh noise, with aggressive or curiously spelled titles like "I Don't Care" and "RRASH ANIMAL2." It's music unlike anything else coming out of the city right now, experimental, raw, and unafraid of confronting listeners.

The DEADFOUNDED-directed video for the title track, which we're premiering on THUMP today, features the song's lyrics in a striking typeface on a red background running alongside grainy footage of the artist wandering the city (including some beautiful shots of the Toronto Reference Library).

For an introductory project from a young artist, it's surprisingly fully-realized, so we recently caught up with the 21-year-old Nigerian-born Toronto native (whose real name is Christopher Soetan) for his first sit-down interview to find out just who LA timpa is.

THUMP: When I was listening to the EP, I noticed there's an abrasive quality to some of the songs, was that inspired by your surroundings?

LA timpa: Part of my aesthetic is this feeling of finding clarity in distortion. I think Mark Twain had a quote like that. It's in my visual art. I know what a good song can sound like to me. There's this process that then comes in after where it almost just wants to give a contrast on top of it, while having that beautiful sound or that beautiful portrait, and there's a collage of a tank blowing up. I've always been into that.

What were some of your musical reference points for Animal?
It's almost like around that time I actually stopped listening to music. Every time I'm on the train or if I'm walking, I'm listening to music on my headphones, and I just wanted to cut that out. So I did, and moved downtown; I feel like those experiences really made the music more than anything.

For Animal, it was all of the new experiences that I was going through, just from moving out at 20-years-old from your parents' house in the suburbs. The emotions of that time really resonate with the sonics. And actually right before that I was listening to a lot of dub reggae.

How did you meet Josh [McIntyre] from Prince Innocence and get involved with Toronto creative collective A.C.C.?
The A.C.C. relationship is built through friends of friends, and all of us being in the right place together. I've known some members—I don't even like to say "members," because they're my family, they're my friends. Some I've known for 15 plus years, others I've known for a year or two.

With Josh, I think it's the same situation as well. I was making music, just playing it in our old studio, and ended up working with him and Talvi [Faustmann] on a project for SSENSE. I just sent him a bunch of stuff just to see if he wanted to put it on the mix, I had no expectations.

You're all coming from different backgrounds and work in different mediums—whether it be fashion, music, photography, etc.—but what characteristics would you say you share?
The obvious one is that we're all black. Which is amazing. We're all black and we're all young and we're all not from Toronto. We're all very excessive and like the extreme of something—there's no in-between. That's the main thing I would say that we all have in common.

Tell me a little about the visuals behind the project. You've got an incredibly well-curated Instagram and your artwork has a uniform style.
It goes back to that lo-fi, raw feel. For example, I imagine the colours red, brown, white, and of course, black when I think of Animal.

It's interesting to think of emotions and instincts in terms of colours like that—very sensory. Are you familiar with synesthesia? It's a condition many musicians have where they see colours while listening to certain notes.
I don't think it's as literal as like actually "seeing colours." Maybe it is—I don't know to different degrees...At least for me, whether it's visual arts or I'm going to a gallery, everything is based on feeling. I'm so conscious of what I like, that if it piques me, I'm going to feel it and I'm going to know immediately why.

What's next for you?
I'm working on more music for a project called Aspen, doing fashion stuff, I would love to create a picture book like a zine. One thing I'm very into implementing now is collaborations. Working with people that specialize in other areas, whether you're into writing and writing novels or whatnot, I would love to work with you.

LA timpa will be supporting Dralms at The Drake in Toronto on April 15, get tickets here.

LA timpa is on Facebook // Twitter // SoundCloud

Max Mertens is on Twitter.