Release Date: 17 April 2020
“I love songs that make you want to cry and dance at the same time,” says Tony Donson, the London-based musician who records as SONIKKU. That sense of unfettered release and liberation drives his new album, Joyful Death. A fluent, fertile and full-colour hybrid of vibrant Italo-house, liquid synth-pop, righteous disco and French philosophical asides, it’s an album that signals the emergence proper of SONIKKU – a fully formed dancefloor artist. It’s also a farewell of sorts, perhaps, but with an emphatic rebirth at its heart. “This album feels like a transformation in the sense that I’m creating the music I’ve always wanted to make. A fully realised, coherent pop record that showcases my craft as a song-writer and producer.”
With help from friends and artists he admires on vocals, Joyful Death is a hugely confident and self-contained leap forward for SONIKKU after his time as a feted DJ. Having moved from Derby to London at the age of 18, Donson worked as an intern (at MTV, Dazed & Confused, SHOWstudio and elsewhere) then turned to DJing (from London to Tokyo, Paris and Berlin) after he was signed to London label Lobster Theremin. Though he continues to DJ regularly at Tottenham’s LGBTQ rave-up Adonis, he has extra ambitions in mind: “I love DJing but I’m more looking forward to developing a live show.”
Passionate in his commitment to the full audio-visual picture, SONIKKU’s own aesthetic for Joyful Death suggests ideas for the live arena will be plentiful: “Visually, my concept is a mutated futuristic take on ’80s aesthetics. I came onto this idea when I saw an image of the Alien from Alien spoofing an iconic Grace Jones pose. This theme is seen in my album art – I’m presented as a latex body-builder with anatomically incorrect muscles. It will continue in the video for ‘Sweat’, which will show LIZ mutating into a pulsating blob of sweat while performing the song in a dystopian, Blade Runner-esque bathhouse.”
Between these vivid images and SONIKKU’s distinctive musical variants on his influences, an ardent spirit of self-determining intent drives his self-makeover. As he explains, “I’ve never had any musical training. I don’t even know how to read music but I started producing on my laptop when I was 14, re-creating Madonna instrumentals. I want to be able to show kids that may not come from a rich background or be able to afford music lessons that you can still pursue music.” For further proof, whether you want to cry or dance, Joyful Death has all you need to hear.