Tenniscoats – Totemo Aishimo

Tenniscoats – Totemo Aishimo – 3.5/5

This blog knows that I love little more than a bit of experimentation, pushing boundaries of convention and producing something whacky and weird, and this Japanese duet have done nothing if not that. An avant-garde artist with a core consisting of smooth pop melodies over an electronic ambient backing, even the stripped back beat of this bizarre beast is unconventional, and when everything else comes into play it all sounds it should be rather chaotic. The jazz-like meanderings of the saxophone, the raw earthiness within the flutes, gentle piano lines and folk-like acoustic guitars; there’s so much here that they need to constantly change the influences around to piece it all together in the one album without overcomplicating everything.

Perhaps most impressively, with such a broad array of influences it never actually does become at all complex, everything layered in such a manner to retain a certain child-like mentality. It’s almost like an ice-cream sundae of creativity; as though they’ve started with the ambient base and then stuck their hands into every western genre they could get their hands on – not really understanding what any of it tastes like – and then delicately arranged it on top, resulting in something obscure but invariably sweet. This almost unbridled experimentalism proves a perfect match for the innocent vocals, at times with just a touch of a knowing darkness, with wide eyes staring upwards at the monolithic black of the unknown.

Sadly, it doesn’t come without its problems, and here its simply that once you get over the initial shock of the warm earthy instrumentations juxtaposed with the electronic effects; the smooth and simple pop melodies with the avant-jazz sensibilities, that nothing else seems to progress. It’s as though they’ve emerged with this obscure and bizarre style that excuses them from failing to compose inspiring music; that their sheer experimentalism will come off as brilliance rather than arrogance. There are more than a few tracks that appear to serve no purpose; ‘Jitsurei,’ consisting of an almost identical five seconds loop endlessly repeated, exemplifying this concern. When everything comes together the result genuinely is breathtaking, it’s just a shame about all the pretentious padding.

Highlights: Cacoy, Donna Donna, Rasen