When sociologists talk about an individual’s or communities’ ability to act in an autonomous manner, according to their own held convictions or points of view – instead of spinelessly settling for whatever conditions their environment imposes on them – they like to use a cute little word called “agency”. Few moments exemplify this process of “building a place in the world for oneself” and searching for meaning in a person’s life as the years between late adolescence and the early twenties, often resulting in creative processes and slightly bumpier than deliberate, indeed. This is the place from which Swedish producer and DJ Tove Agélii – a.k.a. Toxe – speaks to us.
Toxe got her first bit of recognition with Xic, a remix of Britney’s work, from around the time when the cracks were beginning to show. This track shows most of the compositional elements that characterize the artist’s work: an overlap of rhythms, musical collage in an atmosphere of great tension and energy. These will show up on her upcoming EPs, with the added edge of synthesizer melodies establishing the mood.
This lean towards sound collage is particularly present in her work as a DJ: Mixing a straight-up horrible variety of genres – Afro-Caribbean beats, R&B, reggaetón, nu metal (and the list goes on) – Agélii makes an extensive use of sampling, either in bar-length or pointillist cuts, which she later complicates with a weird sense of rhythm and dresses in a chilly, paranoid attire by soaking them up in reverb and distort-y effects (ring modulators come to mind, but not quite).
Now, wherever in the night does Toxe fit? Writing about music is like dancing about architecture, said the poet, but let’s imagine something: You remember the intro sequence from The Hunger? Now, make the camera cuts faster, slightly frantic. Switch Bela Lugosi’s Dead with a bony hybrid of Burial, Mr. Oizo and a Crystal Castles. Add two tabs ketamine and two tabs acid to colour the shady goth dancers on the floor and a nice little spoonful of rusted nails to garnish and there you have it, Toxe alla dijonnaise.
The search for the edge of the night fits perfectly in the club setting, and the young producer’s sets have already hit some quite nifty clubbin’ scenarios, like Berlin’s Boiler Room. She’s taken part in Red Bull’s Music Academy and Barcelona’s Sónar festival. Very soon, we’ll be seeing her in Vienna’s Hyperreality fest.
When I started writing this article, I spoke to you about the notion of “agency”. In the socio-cultural milieu, Toxe isn’t only a rising “new young thing” as a musical producer, she’s also an agent of social change. Her Facebook group, Sister, is a community directed at female producers, publishing a monthlySoundCloud mix of the top-rated contributions: a space that encourages participation and the development of strategic alliances for female producers and promoters outside of the regular channels of the music business, a business still under a lot of hegemonic masculinity social practices and procedures. By creating this community, Agélii is going beyond the scope of an artist’s (or musical producer’s, as you see fit) social function, engaging into activism, mobilizing her audience and peers towards a greater possibilities of cultural entrepreneurship. These are, without a doubt, the first steps in the right direction