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Album Review: Tensnake – Glow

3 min read

You might remember Marco Niemerski – better known as German DJ/Producer Tensnake – from such singles as 2010’s Future-Funk/Euro-House smash Coma Cat or the beautiful Purple Rain-esque electro-ballad from mid-2013 58 BPM. This month he unveils his expansive debut album Glow, featuring an impressive supporting cast of international collaborators. There are appearances by everyone from decorated Brits Stuart Price (aka. Jaques Lu Cont) and Jamie Lidell to Berlin resident/Australian expat Fiora Cutler and the most in-demand session guitarist of the last 12 months, the legendary Mr. Nile Rodgers.

Tensnake-GlowJust by looking at the tracklist, you can instantly tell that this 16-track collection is going to be a well-rounded introduction to the massive scope of this Hamburg native’s incredibly diverse skillset. With discernable influences from almost every era and sub-genre of dance music, the overall result sounds a lot like an album Prince might have made in 1994 and casually never told anyone about. At the same time Glow still sounds fresh, original and current in 2014.

After the intro track First Song – a largely instrumental bath in dystopian synth-soul – your palate is cleansed with Love Sublime; the bouncy, ‘90s-club tinged second single we first heard back in December. Nile Rodgers’ almost extra-terrestrially funky right hand presides over a supremely tight and tasteful groove before one minute in, we get our first glimpse of the classically trained yet inimitably soulful vocals of Fiora, who absolutely dominates the second half of the album.

Feel of Love – with a little help from Price and Lidell – is a joyous celebration of The Purple One’s signature dance-party sound without sounding derivative and provides irrefutable proof that Niemerski knows his way around a drum machine better than most.

However if you aren’t totally sold on Tensnake’s historically aware pastiche of genre-hopping dance floor jams, by the middle of Glow he may start to lose you. It’s one of the pitfalls of releasing such a comparatively long record (clocking in at nearly an hour) in an age when, unfortunately 10-12 tracks are usually the most a listener can digest in one sitting. Not to take anything away from songs like the Imogen Heap-y Kill The Time or Canadian soulsmith Jeremy Glenn’s appearance on Selfish. Even the second collab with Fiora and Rodgers Good Enough To Keep is a great tune but overall, Glow feels like it might be a bit much for some to take in all at once.

With the exception of the just-dubstep-enough Holla and chincy ‘80s instrumental Things Left To Say, the latter half of the record takes a somewhat more subdued turn and it’s definitely for the best. As mentioned before, Tasmanian-born Fiora’s versatile voice is absolutely stunning on tracks like the minimalist R&B of Listen Everybody, where her Amy-Winehouse-via-Lauryn-Hill chops really shine or touch a deep emotional nerve on the slow-burning and appropriately titled single, penultimate track 58 BPM. It’s the story of two lovers who can’t seem to get in sync due to the often-unmanageable speed of their lives and it’s delivered with an immaculate air of optimistic pathos that’s rarely found in music of any kind.

After the bookend outro – conveniently titled Last Song – has washed over you in all its climactic ‘80s glory, you’ll definitely need a bit of a breather to realize that this self-contained tour-De-force of neo-disco pop is a huge achievement for Tensnake and his ragtag gang of feature players. It shares that same all-encompassing ambition of truly great dance records like Prince’s Sign O’ The Times or Moby’s immortal Play but sadly, most listeners nowadays don’t have that kind of attention span and Glow can feel a little draining at points. If only in a “too-much-of-a-good-thing” kind of way.