Although his name may sound unfamiliar, Joe Thornalley, aka Vegyn, has contributed to two of the most influential albums of the decade: Frank Ocean’s Endless and Blonde (2016). You won’t hear Vegyn’s vocals anywhere, but his electronic beats helped shape these two albums. In addition to his creative collaborations with Frank Ocean, he’s been a co–host on the artist’s blonded RADIO show.
Vegyn’s interactions with big–name music stars don’t end there. According to an interview with Dazed Magazine, back in 2013 Vegyn gave James Blake a CD of his tracks at the now–closed London clubs Plastic People. Blake went on to play many of those tracks on his own BBC radio show. Since then, Vegyn has been crafting electronic music as a solo artist, working to make a name for himself on his own.
Vegyn is now one of the hardest working musicians in the U.K.. Earlier this year he released a mixtape with 71 tracks on it, titled Text While Driving If You Want to Meet God!. Full of raw, short synth loops and samples, this mixtape was an effective form of experimentation for the artist in preparation of his debut album Only Diamonds Cut Diamonds, released on Nov. 8. A more refined album with longer tracks, it serves as a perfect introduction to lo–fi hip hop for those who may be new to the genre.
Both of these albums have been released under Vegyn’s own record label, PLZ Make It Ruins. He’s a bold, independent artist self–producing and publishing music both his own music and work from his peers. It’s another testament to his creativity and dedication to making music that’s entirely his own.
Although Vegyn is certainly producing music in a unique way, R&B and pop fans will find that Vegyn’s music is surprisingly accessible. One of the album’s singles, “Nauseous / Devilish,” feels familiar because it features American rapper JPEGMAFIA. Vegyn lends high–energy beats to JPEGMAFIA’s iconic expressionist rap. The soft, slow atmospheric music is background noise, yet it has enough substance on its own. It’s the perfect mixing of typical hip–hop beats with ambient music and moments of rap.
Defying conventions of typical electronic music, the album features beats and loops that are soft and unpredictable along with short audio clips. On one of the tracks off Only Diamonds Cut Diamonds, “I Don’t Owe U NYthing,” he pokes fun at his own name by including a clip of a woman saying “Did I ever tell you I’m vegan?” Unlike his earlier mixtapes, Vegyn also includes original sung lines of his own. Although Only Diamonds Cut Diamonds balances inventiveness with playful humor, it’s an album that—for the electronic genre—is uncharacteristically human and personable.
Since his latest release, Vegyn’s solo music has already begun to gain traction, and was featured on Spotify’s alternative mix POLLEN and the U.K. New Music Friday playlist. An elusive force in today’s music, it’s no doubt that Vegyn will continue to contribute his new and inventive sound to the industry—even if he’s not doing so as a household name.