Institute Of Peace review | Delirious depths in Toto’s unknown world
Since 2016, Toto Chiavetta has been the name behind a catalogue of productions which have showcased a variety of sounds and influences, ranging from jazz, tribal, percussions and house. But, like with every artist, there comes a breaking point where you begin to ask: ‘where is this all going?’
The answer? For Chiavetta, it’s his latest album, ‘Institute Of Peace’.
The release coincides with the introduction of Toto’s new label, ‘Borders Of Light’, which is just as elusive as Toto himself, casually describing itself as a ‘record label and venue for visual arts’.
Equally intriguing is the album name itself. Taken at face value, one could quite be mistaken that Institute Of Peace is suited for those calm and lazy afternoons. Here, Toto re-schools us thoroughly, playing ironically with the name and proving that indeed, you should never judge a book by its cover.
Bold, daring, tantalising. ‘Institute Of Peace’ is formed of eight tracks, spanning just under an hours worth of listening. Much like his previous releases, Toto shows a clear likening of experimentation, but this release is where he steps is up, mixing a mass of unworldly sounds, snares and distorted vocals to form an abstract album that simply just works.
The experimental feel of the album is shown on the first track, ‘Originator’. Haunting chords open up mysteriously for just a little less than half the track, before drums and kicks swirl it forwards. It’s a very relaxed affair, keeping hints of tribal that Toto so likes to use, but with a softer effect than heard before, leaving you to question what exactly to expect.
And that’s where it changes.
Providing an ecstatic and electric contrast, ‘Come Closer To The Border’ follows with full force, where a bold, thumping beat flirts heavily with intense roars and a punchy kick snare that snaps back and forth on a continuous loop. Once the main vocals introduce themselves, a slower, more seductive tempo takes place, before a chaotic combination of hi-hats and hums and electro-inspired sounds fizzle away ever so slightly. You are, quite frankly, left wanting more and more.
Toto continues to keep the upbeat and dynamic vibe alive energetically with ‘Hi-Me’. Trembling textures intermixed with a sequence of sauntering and sizzling hi-hats make way for a chorus of lion-like roars structured in a smooth harmonial chord structure. Intense and chaotic it may be, but it's the perfect prelude to ‘Arpeggiator In The Sky’, which is undoubtedly Chiavetta’s most experimentally raw track on the album. A haunting introduction of chimes, shimmering twinkles and off-beat, bouncing chords are pushed aside for an intense splatter of jars, whirs and dings, leading you deliriously on the edge of your seat before the haunting chimes return once more to remind you, that yes, this is the same track you’ve been listening to for the past six minutes.
A well-deserved break is met in the middle, with the (semi) appropriately named, ‘Institute Of Peace’. Of course, it isn’t a relaxed affair as such, just a little less chaotic than the previous tracks. Here, Toto treats us to a more melodic structure and harmony, showing that alongside all the new experimental sounds he tinkers with in this album he is still aware of his past productions of his. Stripping back the layers, the track incorporates harmonised chords bells and shimmery stabs that push and pull themselves intensely to the end.
‘I-Shelter’ helps to keep the harmonic flow smoothly going. Dabbling and springing away from the start, a thumping bassline takes place, with bars swirling high and low, pulsating intensely until the final breakdown,. At the core, it’s quite minimal and simple but every little dash and detail makes it an understatedly aggressive affair you don’t want to end. Quite seemingly the opposite compared to the penultimate track, ‘S.O.S. Mr Resonator’, which is the album’s best example of an abstract offering from Mr Chiavetta. Stabs of clangs, clashes, buzzes and curious hi-hats make it a somewhat robotic and technological affair – the ideal track for those who like the downright weird and wonderful.
The last track could probably not be more aptly named. Indeed, anyone who has journeyed through this album would so rightly be standing fragile, to say it lightly. ‘She Stands Fragile’ is a pretty paced down affair, utilising less garish bells and chimes along with acid infused synths bellowing away against the melody. It’s a superb track, where Toto cleverly incorporates each substantial element showcased from previous tracks in a much more graceful manner, helping to to rewind delicately whilst soaking up everything you have experienced from this masterpiece for the last 50 minutes.
If there was ever an album that simply makes you say ‘wow’, then this, ‘Institute Of Peace’ is it. It’s an intelligent, thunderous, articulate and thoroughly solid affair, from start to finish. One theme throughout is clear – Toto’s curiosity with experimenting with new sounds, new textures and new ways of expressing himself. And it works. Whilst, at times, it may sound like a large cluster of sounds mashed together, through the underlying melody, the sheer exuberance and most importantly, the impeccable talent of Toto, all these elements are brought electrifyingly together like nobody's business.
And if there was ever an album that can, at times, make you feel like you’re at the edge of your seat, about to fall off at any second – this is it. It’s a tale of the unknown, where Toto goes to depths you probably didn’t even existed. He’s far extended himself and pushed the boundaries not only for himself as an artist, but for every artist.
Quite simply, as ‘Borders Of Light’ describes itself as ‘an imperfect haute couture’ as the essence, there seems no better first release than this.
Review by Joanne Philpott.
You can purchase ‘Institue Of Peace’ here.
Toto Chiavetta is playing for Fragments in London on 10th May. You can purchase tickets here.