Review Summary: Tentenko VII: Minefield vs. MinecraftTentenko 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.
In comes possibly the most vicious
beat ever to drop on a Tentenko outing (so far). All is immediately noise, glitch and cold fury. It’s a lot. If you’re wondering what on earth is going on here, we’re looking at “Hibiya Kouen”, the first track on Tentenko’s Original & Remix
collaboration with Sofheso; though it shares a name with Tentenko’s early foray into harsh techno Hibiya Kouen
, this song does not in fact appear on that release - rather, it feels like a distillation of all its noisey, percussive qualities into one five-minute banger that raises her production value several notches and and blows the doors off. It also shows how far she’s developed her chops for glitch and rhythm since that release, as also suggested on her awesome DJ mix Conduct of Human Beings
. “Hibiya Kouen” is perhaps the perfect takeaway from Tentenko’s mission to craft a techno staple, and it stands as a highlight of her discography.
It is precisely because of this that Original & Remix
is one of the most frustrating albums in a discography crammed with more routine frustrations than abuse apologists on a Brand New thread. The form here is that Tentenko will come up with an original track and Sofheso will lay down a remix; rinse and repeat five times and you’re left with a cosy collaboration with a sixty-eight minute timestamp and quaint doodled artwork to show for it. A cool premise, right? All seems well to begin with: “Hibiya Park remix” is nowhere near as viscerally exciting as the original, but it works pretty well as a less intense response track. Everything looks set for an interesting, engaging release, yet Original & Remix
is one of the most inconsistent albums I’ve heard in my life. Most of the remixes are a complete waste of time, shredding any compelling qualities in a characterless mash of pounding glitch, and Tentenko’s original material here ranges from interesting and inspired to catastrophically dreadful. True to form, there’s enough quantity here that all bases in between are covered.
In fairness, you’d never guess any of this from “250”, the longest, most understated piece here. This track stretches itself over a ten-and-a-half minute runtime, and while it doesn’t live up to the wildfire excellence of “Hibiya Kouen”, it does show Tentenko experimenting with different sounds with some excitement. A simple hip-hop beat at spliff tempo leads the way here, overlaid with delicate vinyl static as she gradually tests out the capacity of your subwoofer. Things take a long while to pick up, but the way Tentenko plays around with the low end of her mix in the track’s closing minutes is worth the wait; “Tha” or “Xmas_Evet10” it is not, but it makes for a worthwhile and quite distinct addition to the Tentenkoverse. The remix does us the favour of cutting the runtime by a generous 50%, and it even goes so far as to add a more dynamic development of rhythms along the way. How lovely.
Things get rough from here. “don’t pee.” is a two-minute ditty too innocuous to overstay its welcome; I’m still unsure whether Tentenko’s mantra of the title is irritating or hilarious, but the track tends to end before I can make my mind up - and then I’ll got other things on my mind, namely outrage at how the remix is four times the length of the original for absolutely zero reason, retaining none of its charm, all of its stupidity, and drearily blowing all the good karma Sofheso accrued from slashing “250”’s runtime out of the window. An own-goal of staggering proportions, though the worst is yet to come:
The seventh song is a ‘new’, extended version of “Hallucigenia.” Oh, joy. Please refer to Part V (Tentenko no Seimei Daiyakushin
) for how this slog of a track has already destroyed an entire album. I cannot find the words to capture the magnitude of my double take as I went from “thank God that’s over” at the end of the “don’t pee.” remix to “This?? AGAIN?!!
” as that loop of despair came on. The only saving grace of the Seimei Daiyakushin
iterations of this one was that none of them were much longer than one minute; here, we get the full six-minute onslaught of the track’s final, stultifyingly tedious form. This compilation is seventy minutes long as is but the inclusion of “Hallucigenia” alone makes it feel three times longer. Screw you Tentenko. My entitled rule of thumb for this whole adventure is that while it is fine - occasionally encouraged, even! - for Tentenko to be terrible at times, it is never
okay for her to be boring - yet that is exactly what “Hallucigenia”’s is, with its lazy rehash of a stupid lofi shitwave please make it stop dub loop overlaid with occasional sparkly keys of banal nothingness. Ugh. Fortunately, the remix mutilates the original beyond all recognition in a somewhat spectacular display of glitchy carnage. In and of itself it’s also unlistenably terrible, but as purely an unexpected revenge act of supreme violence it makes for an unexpected album highlight. Thank you, Sofheso, consider yourself forgiven for “don’t pee.”
While we’re on the subject of Seimei Daiyakushin
throwbacks, it’s nice to see “Make Up Dub” given the time and space denied to it on that album; it appears here in a new, extended version. For my money, this is one of the more substantial pieces of conventional writing to appear in Tentenko’s early work and it holds its own over the extra time. She still hadn’t worked out how to sing a dub chorus, but the composition is all there and the song fleshes out an appropriately engaging atmosphere. Its remix, on the other hand, is a similar mangling to the one dished out to “Hallucigenia”, though not quite as savage. Here, this treatment feels unwarranted, more than a little shapeless and overall baffling. It sits comfortably alongside the steep calibre of the album’s dud pile. Finally, “Uzu” is a track I feel somewhat mixed on. It was grating on Seimei Daiyakushin
and it’s grating here, though the superior production does it a few favours - there’s a lot to dislike here, but there’s something eerie and compelling about the vocal harmony of its refrain that I can’t bring myself to write off. The remix, on the other hand, is the best on the album and, not coincidentally, the only one that builds to anything worthwhile. It starts a similar impenetrable glitch sound to the preceding remixes but threads through a delicate, droning harmony that balances the stuttering development of its pounding rhythms nicely. It eventually bursts into a twisted, clamorous climax that bears absolutely no trace of the original but closes the album in style all the same.
Tentenko & Sofheso - Original & Remix
is not a highlight of Tentenko’s discography and does not reflect particularly well on Sofheso, but it is an exciting listen if not a wholly enjoyable one. Making it the whole way through this album might be an act of masochism, but it’s so full of twists and confounded expectations that I would almost recommended it for that reason alone. Otherwise, there are far worse decisions you can make than to save “Hibiya Kouen” to your library, delete the rest from existence, keep your money and run for the hills. Tentenko might track you down for it someday, but you’ll spare yourself the agony of making it through six unbroken minutes of “Hallucigenia.” No-one needs that in their life.