Grimy LA beatmaker exorcising demons in stunning greyscale
American producer Tony Nicoletta has quite the backstory. Having left home at 13, he grew up fending for himself in Seattle and Arizona, dealing with addiction and homelessness for much of his young life. He was a junkie for six years, and has been in and out of rehab countless times. Since getting his act together (he’s been clean for some years now), Letta’s been living in a warehouse in LA’s Skid Row district, known for its sizeable homeless population.
Despite difficult circumstances, he’s always remained committed to making music. His resolutely insular debut album, ‘Testimony’, is full of echoes of his troubled past. Letta has a real affinity with pitch-shifted R&B vocal samples, akin to producers such as Burial or Mssingno. These voices cut through the layers of sonic fog like ghosts from the past, the lost souls who weren’t quite as lucky.
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While he may have grown up stateside, his musical influences come shrouded in the dismal gloom of the British Isles. He’s spoken of his love for Portishead and Joy Division, both groups that share that same sense of melancholy and darkness. In particular, ‘Testimony’ owes a great deal to the current clutch of UK producers (Visionist, Logos and Mr Mitch) and the early grime instrumentals of Wiley and Ruff Sqwad, and repurposing their textures for a new type of music where atmosphere takes precedence over energy, and lush, heartrending synth melodies occupy the same space as gunshot snare hits and deep sub-zero bass.
‘Testimony’ is out on Coyote Records