Review Summary: Tentenko V: Evil GanjaTentenko 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.
The Tentenko journey has barely gotten off the ground. If Hibiya Kouen
, the last instalment, suggested the early stages of lift-off in the form of a minimal techno artillery attack, Tentenko no Seimei Daiyakushin
is an almost-as-early instance of what we shall henceforth term the “Tentenko, no!” (a.k.a. 10.10/n) effect. Perhaps in response to Hibiya Kouen
’s blistering starkness, this album is fairly chilled out affair, consisting entirely of zany dub songs performed with decidedly low resolution synth and drum tones and rounded off with a lethargic vocal performance for the ages.
It’s a terrible combination. Seimei Daiyakushin
doesn’t lack personality, but it’s drastically self-sabotaged by perhaps the worst sequencing decision I’ve encountered since Radiohead thought it would be a good idea to order A Moon Shaped Pool
alphabetically (or maybe since they decided to release Hail to the Thief
in the first place): the album slips in and out of an 8-bit dub loop aptly named “Hallucigenia”, which crops up every other track and makes for one of the most infuriatingly irritating pieces of music I have heard in my time on this wretched shell of a planet thus far. Technically
speaking, Hallucigenias 1 through 7 only account for a quarter of the album’s runtime, but the majority of the tracks they enclose are so short and insubstantial that you’ll struggle to appreciate this ratio without checking the facts
as I did. The effect is beyond irritating: as soon as Tentenko hits on a decent idea (the miniballad “Moku no Shita” and the reasonably infectious “MAKE UP DUB”) this purgatorial interim loop is back to whisk away any traces of a good impression she might have landed. Alternatively, whenever she plays a stinker (essentially every other song here), the loop is a vicious reminder that there’s more where that came from
. I’d like to say my favourite thing about “Hallucigenia” is the moment it finally, finally
fucking ends and brings this sorry traipse of an album to a close, but as it turns out (spoilers), Tentenko wasn’t quite done with us. Skip ahead to Part VII all ye who dare…
Other than this sequencing disasterpiece, the main thing to pick up on is Tentenko’s vocals. I’ve touched on this in Tentenko Sings Halmens
, but it’s important to clarify things here: Tentenko is a cool artist and her solo career is badass (I would hope this is obvious by now); she’s a capable producer when she wants to be and has a healthy attitude to both independence and collaboration; she’s got a really fun, explorative attitude that makes even her worst work at least somewhat interesting and sets an example of what others with dubious self-censorship faculties should aspire to. These things are wonderful, but they do not make her a competent vocalist. Don’t be fooled by her inclusion on the hyper-polished BiS album Who Killed Idol?
; a quick browse of live videos will show you that, with the best will in the world, none of the BiS girls could sing for shit aside from First Summer Uika - and even by that standard, Tentenko was bottom of the pile.
In her solo work, many of her tracks accommodate for this with arrangements that cover all bases melodically, using her voice more as an auxiliary means of expression, sometimes with modulation. I take a similar line here to the one which carried me safely and euphorically through many a J-pop discography: when Tentenko’s voice is used as a texture or force of personality, all is well; when she’s holding the floor melodically, well …not so much. She has a reedy tone and can’t pitch to save her life. Tentenko no Seimei Daiyakushin
is a stripped back affair and leans heavily on her vocal lines. This does not bode well; while their lack of polish fits better here than they did on her Halmens covers, most of the album is incredibly grating. In this context, I hope the full scale of damnation belied by the indictment of the purely instrumental “Hallucigenia” as the most irritating part of the album is fully apparent. It was not without competition.
Since we’re doing the rounds on Tentenko’s vocal chops and I feel mean for throwing her under the bus this early in the game, there’s a slight exception to point out, showcased here by the short and sweet “Moku no Shita.” Tentenko has a category of songs that I’ll refer to as unlistenably adorable
- that is to say, when she takes things far enough into cutesy territory, a concessive awareness that we’re listening to a girl prone to dropping scorched earth techno bombshells at any given moment kicks in and her tunelessness suddenly becomes irresistibly sweet. Screw it, the more tuneless the better. Many would (probably rightly) call this out as sentimental bullshit coming from someone who has spent too long on Tentenko, but just you wait until we get to the lofi/minimal wave cat lullaby on Tabekko Land
. The final concession to make is that Tentenko’s potential adorability factor is easily cancelled out by even a hint of broken English. See track ten, “Kaze” (I Have A Cold):
I don’t want to go any place today
I want to eat cake [incomprehensible] and candy
You and me both, Tentenko.