Review Summary: Tentenko XXIII: Nursery of TechnoTentenko 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.
I adore this album title. It is such a meme-ready deadpan wonder without any of the contextual baggage. Who is the you
? Who cares - it could be anyone, as long as anyone isn't someone who exists within a toxic framework of contemporary references with a tedious backstory who will one day get old and die and ruin this Tenten Records-released CD-R for literally everybody. None of that, thanks! The subject is a fresh face; the title is pure and, most importantly, it's so
Tentenko. You were born
: a huge statement in simple packaging; three simple, unassuming words with an almost accidental vast implication; boundless significance or glib whateverness, the beginning of life itself or a facile soundbyte? You were born
- no shit, Tentenko. You and me both. Is this a substantiated theme or a cut-and-paste tagline? True to form, we never really find out.
Tentenko was born in Hokkaido August 27th, 1990. She turned thirty last week. おめでとうございます。
Okay let's talk about the music "UFO" is a template Tentenko track that shows off clearly segmented verses and choruses and very little else. Her melodies all have a trademark retro simplicity to them, which she hones here into a style that we shall call 'nursery techno'. Come to think of it, 'nursery techno' is a pretty perfect description for everything Tentenko has done in that style other than her harsh/glitch material. Damn. She should have released this as an EP instead of a fan CD-R and called it You Made Me Realise
! "UFO" has a pretty great hook around the chorus, but Tentenko's verse vocals are insufferable - next.
The second track on the CD-R is called "Gummi" as in the German gummy candy that is somehow universally popular despite being objectively disgusting - yes, Karen, I said objective
- and this is probably significant if you pay attention to the lyrics, but this does not apply here! Of every track from the preceding Tenten records CD-Rs that I've yet to delete from my memory, this one has perhaps the most shockingly well-developed vocal melodies she wasn't cajoled into emitting by competent producers. There's nothing crazy sophisticated going on here - she's still a long way short from her ever expressive inspiring overlady Jun Togawa - but there's some exciting inflections and alternations between deadpan and ditsiness going on here. I don't know, these hooks have personality and some measure of potential and memorability to them but they also lack basic competence or semblance of depth so they're probably on par with, like, Grimes as far as pop hierarchy is concerned. I guess that's nice. Grimes thought she bought into wholesale J-pop, but she actually bought into a J-dubiously professional bedroom project that had previously bought out of BiS. Perhaps this is significant.
If "Gummi" shows Tentenko starting the master the vocal ascent at the end of the fourth measure of each line (you know the one), then "Kimi Wa Umareta" (which means "You Were Born", which is also the title of this release) is a dreamy foray into the oo-oo-oooo
. This song is probably the same thing here, stripped back, unassuming, yet glaringly un-annoying throughout. It comes unsettling close to serviceable bedroom pop with its washed out nonarrangement and ultrachill vocals. Bedroom pop still doesn't really belong in the Tentenkoverse, even including her minimal wave days, so we shall call this lullaby techno and move on to focus on the main deal, namely how does someone so tuneless sound so deadpan and accidentally beautiful all at once (not looking at you, Nico). It is rare for Tentenko to release good material that sounds as though it would never have been good if anyone else has made it, so I guess we should take solace in this and/or rejoice according to personal preference.
Speaking of tracks on this Tentenko CD-R that sound like Tentenko, the two instrumentals "Fantasy" and "Dark World" sound like instrumentals that have appeared on other Tentenko albums. If you yes you have been following so far, you will know that she does instrumentals quite frequently and that the melodic filler ones on vocal-dominated releases are all pretty much interchangeable. They come in two varieties: "Fantasy" is the minimal wave/techno one and "Dark World" is the dub one. "Medana" is off-kilter to a point and reminds me of Living in the Box (Coin Locker)
insofar as it sounds like tracks from that release and I can't work out if it's vaguely sophisticated or just plain silly. Tentenko kind of murmurs over it but nothing really happens besides every instrument in the arrangement apart from the bass purposefully missing the beat every measure. Classic stuff.
With one classic of the Tenten Records canon in the title track and a range of mostly inoffensive material to support it, this is probably exactly what Tentenko needed to release after the middling forgetfest of her last CD-R Diamond no Sasayaki
. I have forgotten that release, despite having reviewed it literally yesterday (not going to lie here, I had to load up that review to remember the title). At this points, things are getting a bit confused and it's hard to see the wood for the trees because I could have sworn that Tentenko has already made this record at least four times? Meh, evolution is an iterative process. Bye.