“I faintly caught your engine humming from my basement like a conversation I wasn’t meant to hear,” Choker speaks over loose and airy synths in the opening moments of his debut work, PEAK. An appropriate first line to set the tone for a project created in the solitude of the aforementioned basement. Entirely self-produced by Choker, PEAK gives listeners an intimate and unfiltered view into its creator’s mind. Choker doesn’t explain himself much during the 40 minutes the audience spends inside his world, placing responsibility on the listener to sort through his fragmented anecdotes and visions to create something more comprehensible. While Choker’s mysteries remain unsolved by the end of PEAK’s run time, the album provides an opportunity for listeners to wrestle with their own angels and demons in its meditative atmosphere.
PEAK falls into the tradition of albums like To Pimp A Butterfly, Lemonade, and A Seat At The Table with a more cerebral, less commercial bent that remains grounded in R&B and Hip-Hop sensibilities. The album will inevitably draw its strongest comparisons to Frank Ocean’s Blond for Choker’s voice and introverted style. Both albums are born from the artists’ deep introspection and a meticulous pursuit of a uniquely personal artistic experience. PEAK takes the more avant garde elements of Blonde and takes them to another level, at times losing all sense of clarity or direction. This is not an album destined for mass consumption or radio play.
PEAK‘s genius comes from its pacing more than its grooves or hooks. Choker forgoes the traditional verse, chorus, bridge skeleton that defines pop music, choosing instead to string together multiple verses before introducing a chorus in some songs, and choosing not to introduce a chorus at all in others. The ambitious stream-of-consciousness approach pays off more often than not, though it can come across as unnecessarily pretentious at times. Choker clearly intended for listeners to digest this album in its entirety, and individual tracks may not feel rewarding as a result with their musical meandering. PEAK asks its listeners to buckle in for the entirety of its journey– to allow the disorienting and jumbled elements to carry them to its more accessible moments.
In PEAK’s opaque and puzzling presentation, Choker distills the uncertainty of being a young adult into music. Caught between adolescence and proper adulthood, life rarely ever maintains a consistent sense of stability. At times on PEAK, Choker is playful like when he describes a flirtatious relationship in “Moksha.” At other times, listeners find him excavating the depths of his love-induced agony. The contrasting sentiments come and go without warning in the album just as they would in life. Ultimately, PEAK does not leave the audience with straightforward recommendations for reconciling these feelings. It does, however, acknowledge their coexistence and validate anyone experiencing similar uncertainty.
The full album can be found here and through all streaming services.