Review Summary: Music is a struggle against the idea of emotional intangibility, the knowledge that ideas can never be transferred exactly. Tenday's Bleak is the challenge to this within the rap idiom.
I do not know Tendai (aka Tendays) but we have talked frequently. I think he believes that I live in UK, a funny mix-up that I haven't cleared up because I sort of like the idea of being from there, or at least the very idea of playing a character appeals to me. The misconception stems from my coverage of his music through a UK based journalistic entity which I am contracted onto despite my actual location within the American heartland. It was an overly favorable piece I wrote without too much consideration to what was, admittedly, a very good song, but one that I didn't see myself being too concerned with into the future. I'm not sure what face I want to present to him, but I'm really only interested in the music anyways. No matter how much I pretend I can find connection in an online correspondence with a stranger, I imagine he only wants to use me as a journalist as much as it can further his career anyways, so I brushed it off, how could he really care" And how could I earnestly care for the depressional struggles of kid 4000 miles away, one I don't really know anything about anyways. It's easier to accept the nature of individuation and just look at your feet. I make this decision a lot online.
I am not the person he believes me to be, and he is probably not the person I imagine him to be. When his music comes to me, the context which informs its meaning is ripped from that cradle and re-contextualized into purely schematic images which I will stretch and contort to understand and interpret his music. This is the childish failure of music fundamentally, the idea that a device of emotional manipulation can be used to genuinely tell the world how you feel and give life to your experiences. They will not understand, and they will not be there. Music is a method of empathy, of whimpering and complaining, of boasting and exuberance. Projecting the emotions of an experience and a lifetime outward and hoping that the receiver shares an experience onto which those lights can restructure onto, hopefully close to the original intent, but at least with the same general shape. But it is just that, an image rebuilt with the pieces of an accepting end that lacks the original parts.
Rap is knee deep in it's 'emo phase' as we've come to colloquially call it. The proliferation of artists in the wake of xxxtentacion and bones is a jumbled mess of lo-fi/futuristic aesthetics, melodramatic expression and often misunderstood appeals to indie rock and emo legacy. Sure Lil Peep sampled Microphones, but I don't feel particularly compelled to say he understood it, anymore than that it was sad and so was he (desperately so). Microphones and Sebadoh huddled around their 4-tracks because they wanted to prostrate themselves before the process. They wanted to open their wrists in as close a venue as possible. They peeled off as much machismo as they could (pretend Sebadoh's "Soulmate" doesn't exist), and gave their selves to a poetic venture which removed as much filtration from the emotional projection as possible. The image may have exited the process misshapen and unpleasant, but the intent would arrive in as unaltered a state as was conceivable. This was true of emo to a lesser extent, as often musicianship and production found themselves complicating the message, but it was still the intent. Rap's emo phase has played out a bit more removed than all that. A bit more artifice and posturing, a little more glitz then feedback. An artistically valid mode of expression of course, but the dissonance has never stopped itching at me. Maybe that's why I kept talking to Tendays.
I would not describe the muddy production and often meandering songwriting of Bleak as excellent by any means, but I don't find any barriers in my listening experience. The shoddy 4-track equivalent production is raw. It's raw as ***. It sounds like it's being made right there in your headphones. The precocious inclusion of voicemails sent from friends and fans, or the clunky chunk of heavily filtered rhythms. I remember listening to Sebadoh's The Freed Man when I was 16, staring at my ceiling and closing my eyes to let the projection take me to it's source. The kind of things kids without *** to do... do. It was and remains to this day a kind of ***ty album, but it's perfection never alludes me when I crank it 3 am on a misty day. I can imagine a 16 year old musically literate kid doing the same with Bleak, taking this project into their hearts, as earnest an connection as they may ever have, to an artist who might one day be far far away. Sebadoh would eventually head into the studio and record their most popular album Bakesale, allowing a space and pathway to discover what was in their one true statement, an album recorded five years earlier in Lou Barlow's bedroom. Hidden underneath a wealth of music that came after, music that sounded better, was written better, and featured significantly stronger performances. Qualities that did nothing to make the music stronger. I hope one day Tenday will find the same pathway to success and this connection might find value. That Bleak might take someone to the very edge of another's personage, able to look through the glass and see original forms.
(Authors Note: I hold no bias to Tendays music. as I've said I don't even really know him. To that point I would even say that ALONE0010 and IHOPEUKNO0039 are bad songs even within the confines of the premise of a lo-fi project. But then, how could you ever understand my words to be true")