Review Summary: Tentenko XXII: Diamonds are forever keeping us apart for 3.5 yearsTentenko 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.
Welcome back to the Tentenkoverse.
Many things have changed since we parked the bus on her wonky opus Kogyo Seihin
: I’ve moved continent, the world has been overtaken by idiocy and a sometimes deadly virus, and it’s about thirty times easier to drink unaccompanied without feeling degraded by it. I’m also a little wiser now - having met the likes of Busujima Orochi and Shiraha, I've realised that even Tentenko’s most unpolished listlessness holds a certain charm compared to some of her alt-idol contemporaries. Things have changed, and they continue to change. Has Tentenko changed? Goodness only knows - three years’ worth of album-a-month refuse separates me from her, a mountain that has only grown taller since I afforded myself a hiatus after completing Tentenko v.2016 back in January. Perhaps she has changed. Perhaps her last few months’ worth of material have cottoned onto hitherto uncharted techniques of songwriting mastery and experimental polished.
Who knows: at the time of writing, her latest record is named Previous Life
. Its cover features two skeletal hands, and it closes with a track named “Record under the bed, 20 Apr, 2020.” Not coincidentally, this the same day that Italy’s Covid case count decreased for the first time and the Japanese government updated the terms of its 100,000 yen stimulus package. Can’t wait to analyse the *** out of that one. We’ll get there eventually; til then, the question of whether or not Tentenko has changed with the times can orbit the popular consciousness like a sleepy fairy daydreaming into a cheap Casio.
The question that can
be answered here and now is whether Kogyo Seihin
, Tentenko’s debut LP with an (uh) professional label and final release of 2016, changed her independently helmed Tenten Records output in the short term. Here is the answer:
Tentenko’s first release of 2017, Diamond no Sasayaki
(2017.01.05) is an improvement of sorts upon Tooku no Parade
(2016.12.03) insofar as it is borderline listenable, but it is also a regression insofar as it is somewhat less striking. It is both less listenable and less striking than Living in the Box (Coin Locker)
(2016.11.03). Two steps forward, one step back: Tentenko is still Tentenko. This release fits comfortably into her tradition of crafting unchallenging retro-techno medleys of aggressive ambience and shy bops. The best of her material in this vein (Machi
) was somewhat austere and enigmatic in its deadpan melodies; Diamond no Sasayaki
does not share this approach, instead opting for wobbly baselines and fractured beats that traipse clubfooted from one side of the album’s twenty-five minutes to the other.
The opener "Asahi” shows off this basic approach just enough for the other tracks to be largely spoiler free, despite the fact that you’ll struggle to recall a single note outside of its runtime. Few other things of note take place, and by ‘few’ I mean exactly three. “Diamond no Seibutsu” is a groovy showcase of monosyllables that makes for one of Tentenko’s catchiest Tenten Records tracks despite featuring one of her worst vocal performances and a full forty seconds of silence as a coda; it’s probably the highlight track, if that’s a label you’re into. The closer “Sayonara Sneakers” is almost pretty cool too, an expansion of Tentenko’s new wave-isms into the perfect soundtrack to an underattended fairground in purgatory. It’s somewhat memorable, catchy enough to make you want to dance, facile enough to make you laugh at yourself for wanting to do so. However, it misses a bit of her old lofi sound, the actively dissonant synth chords that sustain it only hints at the blend of blithe dysfunction that makes Tentenko at her best such an unlikely joy. Beats excepted, outright dysfunction is at a disappointing minimum on this release, but Tentenko more than makes up with this with utterly hilarious deployment of a synth marimba (or whatever) on the punishingly long (5:31) “Drive.” In and of itself it’s the stuff of insanity, but it conveniently also sounds like a direct pisstake of Oneohtrix Point Never. I enjoy this impression considerably more than Tentenko’s background dronings and unlilting compound time.
That’s about it as far as this one’s substance goes; Diamond no Sasayaki
beckons in a fresh year of Tentenko but doesn’t make much of a huge song and dance out of it. There you go; more will be revealed in due course about whoever - or whatever - Tentenko has become by 2020. The full value of this will likely only be apparent to those wayward enough to develop a genuine affinity for her bedroom project-isms and deadpan tinkerings (unless, for some sick reason, you choose not
to endure the whole shebang in strict chronological order and skip to the end, in which case curses upon you and your family). That’s all - see you in the next one!