this emotionally intense concept album is inspired by olafur eliasson

With his debut album ‘Your Psyche’s Rainbow Panorama,' British Nigerian musician Tony Njoku brings you pain, elation, insanity, empathy, anger and acceptance.

by Frankie Dunn
30 July 2019, 12:31pm

Concept albums aren’t for everybody. They are, however, right up Londoner Tony Njoku’s street. Heavily inspired by the work of Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson – whose colourful exhibition In Real Life is at the Tate Modern until 5 January 2020 – the musician is all about emotion. The artwork that touched him so deeply it spawned an entire record was Your rainbow panorama, a 150-metre long circular glass walkway that sits between the city of Aarhus and the sky. Spanning all colours of the spectrum, the particular shade you’re looking at the city through is designed to alter your perception of what it is you’re viewing. A real walk for the senses.

Tony’s resulting record, Your Psyche’s Rainbow Panorama (see what he did there?) does the same thing but with music and a full range of intense emotions. Due for release on 4 October via London label Silent Kid Records, the album is visceral and expansive, something to be felt as much as heard. To listen is to take an emotional trip down memory lane, a battle through painful therapy sessions and a flight out the other side in the direction of pure happiness. The latter culminates with Rapture, which we’re pleased to be sharing an exclusive stream of today; an abstract and falsetto-topped explosion of total joy.

“It’s a song about euphoria, liberation, elation,” Tony says of the track. “These feelings are conveyed through the lens of a beautiful psychedelic experience I had. So, for me, it’s about taking a dive into the mind’s eye to reprogram negative patterns and discover joy in a very pure form.” And when did he last feel that level of joy, we wonder? “Maybe when I went to the Olafur exhibition at the Tate a few weeks ago,” he decides.

Experience pure rapture, and get to know Tony via these 10 rather interesting facts below:

1. Tony grew up between Lagos, Nigeria and London, UK.
“I love both places so much. I think Lagos really hardened me. I had so many crazy experiences there, both positive and dark, but all beautiful. It made me aware of my privileges, my background, my roots. Being there and around my family I really got a strong sense of my cultural identity, and in the past few years I’ve begun to really understand the value of that. London is amazing, it’s such a wild place and it really opened me up personally and creatively, I definitely found myself here.”

2. He was singing in his church choir at the age of 5.
“It’s probably my earliest memory of music. That and my mum singing Whitney Houston.”

3. He always knew he’d do something creative.
“Honestly, I was always gonna be an artist of some sort. I grew up doing everything creative, from acting to painting, sculpting, etc. There was a time when I was growing up where I didn’t have easy access to doing other art forms, so music took centre stage, and then as I gained a deeper understanding of music it became my obsession. It’s the most abstract art from to me, the most visceral. It feels like it gets closest to the source of our true essence.”

4. Your Psyche’s Rainbow Panorama is a showcase of emotions in music form.
“When I listen to the album now it feels like a documentation of certain emotions I felt very intensely over the past year and a bit. Be it love, anxiety, confidence, sadness. I just wanted to focus on the ‘thingness’ of those emotions and not dwell on the situations that stirred them, but of course I failed at that -- the lyrics are very descriptive of the situations I was in, but I guess it’s good to give people context. We all go through the same stuff at different points of our lives after all.”

5. As you probably gathered, Tony has a thing for Olafur Eliasson.
“I experience his work a lot like I do music. His art is beautiful, abstract, visceral, accessible, playful and intellectually stimulating. The space becomes the artwork, the object of focus disappears and the audience becomes the most important part of the piece. That’s a very Duchampian idea; the artwork is not complete until the audience engage with it. Art becomes a vehicle for self examination, socialising, building community and ultimately liberation.”

6. He wants his music to make you feel disorientated.
“I feel it’s important to challenge, I guess for me the album totally throws me at times, even after listening to it so much. There are these moments on it that make me feel certain emotions very intensely, sometimes so intensely that I have to take a break from listening. I think that’s important to do sometimes. Art that overwhelms and takes away your sense of control. That’s humbling man, and to me, very important.”

7. Tony treasures the artists who have the same effect on him.
“Thom Yorke does that well with the Kid A album. And more recently, his track ‘Dawn Chorus’ does that for me too. It just shatters me into a trillion pieces. I can’t help it, I just burst into tears. It’s so cathartic. On the other hand, Arca’s album Mutant has that effect but it touches very different emotions. I need those experiences, they make me feel truly alive and they’re seriously grounding.”

8. He reckons Your Psyche’s Rainbow Panorama would be a good movie soundtrack.
“Oh man, I’d probably say it’d soundtrack Jodorowsky’s Holy Mountain well . It’s full of drama, surrealism, romance, intensity, philosophy, pain and all the stuff the warms my pretentious arty farty heart.”

9. Go see him live and you’ll be dancing.
“Expect a lot of synthesisers, and more danceable versions of tracks than on record. It’s intense, fun, and there are a lot of wild moments and a lot of somber moments. It’s all about the music.”

10. Tony is a blue belt in taekwondo.
“I used to be into martial arts. I fell off very early on in life (around 13) but I’m definitely thinking or starting some sort of contact sport again. I’ve done a couple boxing classes recently and may even try judo. Just something that connects me with my body more.”

This article originally appeared on i-D UK.

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