Theo Martins offers a guided tour of Wonderland

All killer, no filler
By CHRIS CONTI  |  February 20, 2013

Theo_Michael_Benatar_main
KEEPING IT FRESH Martins.
Make tracks to the PVD Social Club next week and welcome back acclaimed wordsmith Theo Martins, as the South Provy native returns for his first show since taking his talents to Los Angeles around a year ago. Martins will be celebrating his late-2012 "official debut release," Wonderland, following a handful of excellent EPs and mixtapes over the past five years. Stream the new album right now at  wonderland.theomartins.us then proceed directly to iTunes and download a copy, or pick up the disc at the show.

Martins is an inspired creative force continually hustling on a handful of artistic platforms, from freshly dipped KarmaLoop photo shoots to art and video direction (he recently assisted on a video by fun.). Oh, and he landed a starring role in Steven Spielberg's Amistad at age 9. But Martins made clear his top priority right now.

"First and foremost I am a musician," he told me. "I have a voice and I thrive on using it. Music is the vehicle that I've used to open other artistic doors for myself."

Theo has been on the musical grind since the mid-2000s, first as a DJ, then he stepped in the booth and let it rip. His 2008 mixtape, The Birth, was endorsed by OkayPlayer (founded by ?uestlove of the Roots) and The Source, and mixtapes Channel Surfin' and You Can't Do That On Television received praise from Prefix, AOL, and MTV.

With Wonderland, Martins approached the mic with heart affixed to sleeve (read more at diary.theomartins.us) and reflects on personal relationships as well as his relocation to the West Coast, as noted in this intro to the album on his website:

"You begin to question where your life is taking you, where you belong and how you'll get there. It's a feeling of exhilaration, excitement yet fright. I'm still awaiting answers to my questions . . . Welcome to Wonderland.

"The album was inspired my desire for more — from myself, my community, my home, and my relationships," Martins told me. "It's about the risks you take in order to reach that place.

"At the time I was in a decaying relationship and trying to save it made it worse, and I knew that by leaving I would be severing ties," he continued. "And as much as that frightened me I had to see for myself what lied ahead."

And, of course, Theo kept the work and production in-house. "Producing the record wasn't difficult because the story was my own, but it was tough revisiting those feelings and memories," he said. "But in doing that I was able to accomplish something musically that I don't think I could've done any other way."

The sounds on Wonderland writhe with dense bass and eccentric, futuristic grooves. Case in point is the first single and album centerpiece "Killer" (with singer Maryann Vasquez providing the hook). The video made its world premiere on BET's 106 & Park (and has garnered more than 100,000 hits on YouTube). The album is bookended by the smooth title track and hands-up closing cut "The Flowers," and Martins flexes his versatility on "Dr. Robotnic," "Fragments" and "Prisms." The majority of Wonderland was recorded in LA ("Labyrinths," "Blue Valentine" and "Balloons" were recorded in RI).

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