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Preview: Sonnymoon, Jonti, B. Lewis Push Boundaries of Sound at Pagoda

In Music
Sonnymoon headlines with Jonti at Pagoda tonight.

Sonnymoon headlines with Jonti at Pagoda tonight.

Peanut Butter Wolf works in mysterious ways.

The South Bay music legend pioneered sophisticated production in San Jose’s underground scene in the early ‘90s, before founding the Stones Throw label and signing hip-hop revolutionaries like Madlib, J Rocc and J Dilla. And he’s still engineering musical mini-movements, as Boston band Sonnymoon learned when they first arrived on Wolf’s current turf in SoCal last September.

“He came to our show when we played with Teebs in LA,” says Dane Orr, one half of the Sonnymoon duo. “That night, Wolf was like ‘This guy Jonti’s coming to LA, you guys gotta link up. That was the first time I ever heard of Jonti. Which is kind of funny, since now we’re on tour together, but it’s really cool.”

That tour comes to Pagoda Lounge in San Jose this week, with Jonti and Sonnymoon headlining a show lined top to bottom with forward-thinking, sometimes nearly unclassifiable electro and hip-hop acts like Portland’s Devonwho and San Jose’s own B. Lewis. Knxwledge and Mndsgn are performing at other stops on the tour.

That Wolf’s dropped hint would turn out to be prophetic is surprising since Jonti and Sonnymoon seem so outwardly different. Jonti, an Australian multi-instrumentalist who released his first album, Twirligig, last year, is one of the most fascinating signings on Stones Throw; at the time Wolf described it like this: “I understand the pop references because his music is so catchy, but the arrangements blew me away. I couldn’t figure out how the hell he did what he did. That he did it all on his own at such an early age kinda scared me. I knew right away I needed to add him to the roster.”

Jonti’s music is generally more introspective and despite its intricate, catchy beats, solidly based in a singer-songwriter tradition. His remarkable talent for beatmaking somewhat obscures the fact that in many ways he’s a Nick Drake for the 21st century. Sonnymoon’s ambient brand of electronic music has an epic, cosmic feel that pushes at outward boundaries of sound.

And yet, there are, at a deeper level, a lot of similarities between these artists. Both Sonnymoon and Jonti represent a new kind of experimentation in the ever-more-blurred boundaries between electro and guitar-based rock and folk, between digital and analog. They both reject the retro (mainly ’80s-based) nostalgia that has been the trend in electronic music for several years now—an artistic decision that is not to be taken lightly, as Sonnymoon discovered.

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