- Tokyo Prose's debut EP, which dropped on Samurai back in 2011, was defined by a quality elusive for most young artists: maturity. Comprising eight tracks of tender, lovey-dovey drum & bass, Introducing Tokyo Prose presented Sam Reed as a devout pupil of drum & bass legend Calibre. But what stuck out about Reed was his intimate understanding of that sound's appeal: minimalist drum tracks touched with piano and the slightest bit of vocal, without going overboard on the pathos. He was no mere imitator. The legacy of Introducing has made Tokyo Prose one of the genre's most quietly exciting newcomers. After a stream of dance floor singles comes Presence, which feels like a worthy follow-up to his landmark debut.
Like many drum & bass LPs, Presence is loaded with high-profile collaborations, but Reed wrings the best out of his guests rather than letting them rule the roost. The only real departure in style comes from Synkro, who assists on the swooning downtempo cut "Common Ground." Elsewhere, Christoph El Truento fleshes out the stately opener "16 Bar Cycles," making it lifelike with quivering piano, Rhodes and chimes. A dream-team pairing with vocalist Riya turns out as lovely as you'd hope, backed up with a perfect instrumental from Reed. On Presence, his productions feel crisper, trading flimsy synth instruments for bigger, realer sounds. The piano on "Won't Let Me Go" (featuring Lenzman) booms like it was recorded in some grand cathedral. The same goes for "Small Gains" and "Ventura," the latter of which is about as archetypal as a Tokyo Prose tune gets, with drifting female vocals and synths that ripple like jellyfish.
Reed sticks to his softer side on Presence, with an emphasis on melody and elegant decoration. But unlike many of his peers, he largely avoids over-emoting. Only "Kidman," with its vocal from Zoë Klinck, gets the best of him—its lyrics are too transparent, its arrangement too prim and proper. "Sunsets" also feels a bit off, with terse MC lines ("estate-type housing, product of surroundings") that feel half-baked. What's more interesting about "Sunsets," however, is the way its harder drums seem to skitter and slide forward like they're skating on ice, balancing an assertive sound with Reed's elegant sense of arrangement.
Reed's approach is so measured that Presence falls victim to Calibre-album syndrome, where lovely track after lovely track becomes a bit of a wash. But complaining about too much of a good thing is just that, and the dips in quality on Presence are few and far between. Instead, it's a wistful late-summer drum & bass album, embracing the form instead of trying to reinvent it. In choosing pure refinement, the eminently approachable Presence is bound to suck in some new fans—music this gorgeous would catch anyone's ear.
01. 16 Bar Cycles feat. Christoph el Truento
02. Won’t Let Me Go feat. Lenzman and Fox
03. Sunsets feat. LSB & DRS
05. Waiting On feat. Riya
06. See Through Love
07. Kidman feat. Zoë Klinck
08. Common Ground feat. Synkro
09. Fragmented You feat. Milton
10. All Things
12. Small Gains
13. Dance With You