Review Summary: Tentenko IV: BEATSTentenko is an ex-idol freelance artist who runs her own label and has released an extensive range of experimental pop and techno EPs. This review is part of an ongoing series dedicated to exploring her discography. For a point of reference and orientation to her discography as a whole, please see the first instalment in the series, the review for Good Bye, Good Girl.
Ladies, gentlemen, and all in between: here is where the techno starts. Well…sort of. One ambient noise EP and a collection of dubious tributes down the line, Tentenko decided it was time to drop some beats. Technically her first CD-R release extensive enough to a constitute a full-length, Hibiya Kouen
’s minimal techno/industrial sound palette is far more intense and (dare I say) aggressive than anything we’d heard from Tentenko so far. There is very little in the way of embellishment or rhythmic deviation on offer here, but for those who like their beats robust and unrelenting this album is a surefire winner.
The first two tracks pick off where Dokusai
left off, although they ditch that release’s goofy noise interjections and swap in churning, muted percussion that somehow manages to feel like the secondary ingredient even when there is literally nothing else going on - which, for a good proportion of the time, there is not. These tracks are much more austere and expansive than Dokusai
- I wanted to be kind and call them an ambitious segue into a new style or something similar, but after clocking that their combined runtimes come to nearly three quarters of Dokusai
(which I only listen to three quarters of in the first place - ain’t no-one got time for “i wash my head”!), I couldn’t escape a slight suspicion that Tentenko is ever so slightly taking the piss here. In fairness, things do pick up for a minute or so halfway through the second track “Igirisu Daishikan”, but this one feels overall anticipatory, crafted to create more tension than it can hope to resolve.
Well, given that a running theme of this series is to pin down where and how Tentenko went from a position of great inexperience to mastering techno as a craft, we can place a great big Craft Milestone right here because Hibiya Koen
totally comes round: the third track “Hanzou Mon” is an early triumph, almost entirely percussion driven and full of a repetitious, skittery feel that invokes great paranoia and probably should not be danced to. The track instantly finds its groove and stays there for the entirety of its three-minute runtime, excepting a brief amateur moment where Tentenko sends the beat out of sync with itself by setting a delay to an uneven interval and then triggering a brief meltdown by turning the delay feedback up to a multiplier over 100; the delays become incrementally louder and flood the mix rather than fading away. This is an endearingly basic trick that I’m sure every other 13 yr old has trialled on their first Garageband project, but Tentenko pulls it off just fine (and in fairness I also heard it used on James Blake’s snoozefest of a new album so who’s to say).
The following track “Aka to Shiro no Tsutsuji to Shidareyanagi” lays down a relentless set of machine-gun beats, and the album carries its weight hitch-free from thereon out. Notable developments include “Tsutsushi”, a remarkable simulation of a motorbike repeatedly failing to start up and simultaneously losing a whole tyre’s worth of air, and the closing pair, which transition from one pounding loop into a heavily modulated closing soundscape, the album’s first beat-free section. Once again using crude production techniques to great effect, Tentenko plays with EQ and dynamics to extract peak intrigue from her loop and it rounds things off nicely; amongst many
other things, it makes me think of Tool if they played underwater at 40% speed without vocals or percussion. Turns out to be a good look.
Anyway, this is probably the first Tentenko release that can be wholeheartedly recommended. Dokusai
was enjoyable in its own weird way, but it felt more like an easter egg than something you could share with anyone in entirely good faith. Hibiya Kouen
, on the other hand, is an acquired taste but confident and engaging in its sound. For the first time, Tentenko was more or less beyond speaking the idol-esque language of performativity - very few of Dokusai
’s “look what I can do”-isms are left standing here, and instead she gets down to business with a decidedly no-nonsense attitude. A few amateur production habits and a somewhat narrow scope for appropriate listening contexts set it back a little, but on the whole this one is an excellent step forwards, a formidable techno skeleton ready to be fleshed out on future outings.