Toil in Obscurity Album by Wilton
Toil in Obscurity is the latest and resoundingly rich album from artist Wilton, presently of Glitch Bitch. The album was released in January of 2020 on Level Records and is a collaboration with Jonathan Ybañez. It has the power to surprise and inspire fans of experimental music, and anyone who’s had the pleasure of an interpersonal relationship with the artist.
When I first met Wilton, my impression was that of sheer intrigue. Here was a nymph of eclectic taste who obviously had a great investment in the community of misfits that we both were a part of. At live shows, there was either Wilton’s presence dancing with fervor in the audience, or creating a force on stage in various groups. These musical ventures were always hypnotic, fun, quirky, and inclusive. It was impossible to not feature such energy in my retrospective (and still unfinished) documentary on that particular Los Angeles music scene.
This was in 2015, and those groups were namely Cellars (lead guitar), Popheart (bass), and Vertighost. Both Popheart and Cellars could easily be categorized as new wave and pop, with each having its own edge and aesthetic. Both groups also highlight Wilton’s long-time collaboration and special friendship with Paris Yavuz.
“We shared many interests including production, composition, and musicianship. We explored and learned a lot together through many many all night recording sessions during that time.”
Admittedly, there was the personal assumption that (given the obvious delight and focus within these works) Wilton’s leanings towards the very attainable genres of New Wave and Pop were of express interest.
“I’ve always loved certain pop radio, new wave, and old school jams. I’ve always loved the contrast of etherial but romantic or even sexual…
Impassioned singing and lyrics against electronic rhythms and synths…
Lofty yet edgy.
Sparse but nuanced and transgressive.”
Ah, but then I heard Toil in Obscurity and my preconceived notions on the artist were humbly dissolved. The album is more than a mere collaboration with Jonathan Ybañez and was mixed and produced by Wilton. There’s a subjective importance to the album year, as 2020 is a year that wreaked havoc on many lives.
Arguably, it also goes down as a time that many musicians were given the space and cathartic necessity to tap into the throes of expression. Live performance and community gained a new importance in their absence.
The album contains four tracks that manage to be experimental and prophetic without pretense or borders. In my interview, the artist explained that the album was something organic and fast in its creation. Honest, was the word used, and it fits alarming well. I asked Wilton if the album was a sort of window into their sense of self, personal transgressions, and desires.
“I’m not sure if I have a sense of self. Maybe creating something is a way of searching for self. Maybe the only way to find out who you really are is to challenge yourself, be brave, and see what comes out if you allow yourself to really do whatever you really want to do.”
The album is haunting, freaky, and unlike anything I’ve heard from the artist. It is simple, nuanced, quick, and somewhat neurotic (in the best sense), and Wilton was in agreement.
“The truth is I rarely consider genre when I make music…When I’m part writing or producing, I am usually considering whatever other components are there or what might be missing. Sometimes I’m stretching boundaries because I find a section to be too predictable, or I might try to ground something that might be too far out.”
In relation to Toil in Obscurity specifically,
“Toil in Obscurity was experimental to record in that it was made in a different way than I usually work…It usually started with me making a drumbeat and bassline off the top of my head. Sometimes Jonathan would make the bassline or learn what I made for the recording. Then we’d both throw out guitar or synth ideas while I figured out the vocals. All of the lyrics are actually posts I made on Facebook.”
Wilton went on to describe the process of rearranging these posts of poetry, diary, or “dry erase board,” and mixing them into the songs until it was time to go home.
“When we stopped meeting the album was finished. Ha ha.”
The first track, “Tongue in Teeth,” is a personal favorite for its ability to bring me into an almost nightmarish space in a matter of 52 seconds. This is followed by “Devoured by Wolves,” which is not only lyrically rich, but so nuanced musically that it begs for both gyration and/or dancing as well as deep thought.
The third track, “I’m Not Allowed to Say,” is groovy, pensive, arty, and truly masterful. Within the album, it’s the most transgressive and surprising in its construction and feel. The title track, “Toil in Obscurity,” is fittingly the last and feels like a departure, or perhaps the resolution of a season in life. That season, shared by everyone with a pulse, is the essence of collectivity.
It’s relatable and smooth with its piano melody and yet wrenching with its racy snare drum and synths. It never delves into pop or the walls of a genre, which wouldn’t be a bad thing. However, it was exciting to experience and quite unexpected.
Wilton is an artist who is a chameleon of sorts – one who shifts between roles of production while also contributing a wide array of talents. These include, but are not limited to, guitar, bass, drums, vocals, and synthesizers. When asked if there was a genre or instrument that they’d like to explore, Wilton did not disappoint in a surprising response:
“I’ve always enjoyed developing my craft as a musician in bands on various instruments while also working on my solo projects…I pick up all the instruments but I would definitely like to get better at all of them…I think it would be amazing to put out a great Tejano album.”
As a lasting statement on musical and performative creation,
“We all see and hear things everyday that we don’t want to see and hear. To craft something that looks or sounds just the way you want it to is so satisfying and empowering.”
You can hear more from Wilton in various projects. Currently, that project is Glitch Bitch, which follows many noteworthy and inspirational contributions to everything from lofi and alternative to art rock. These include at least a dozen groups, including BITZ N PIECEZ, rori nori, and personal favorite, Not the Government.
Photos by Amy Darling