Tenniscoats – Tan Tan Therapy – 4.5/5
I seem to rarely revisit artists, but this is one of those horrible exceptions. Their 'Totemo Aimasho' did little for me but with their follow up I realised that I'd gotten it all wrong; their intentions never were entirely ambient inspired, even if they utilise some of the same signature effects, but instead only intend to create an atmosphere that's 'light' and 'floaty,' a fact that the simpler instrumentation highlights. Despite this, the husband-and-wife duo only really have one instrument that make a recurrent appearance: the nonsensical vocals of San. The instrumentation is still packed with variety from the ambient backing, the acoustic guitars and a small but notable brass section; the genre still painfully ambiguous, somewhere between ambient, pop, folk, jazz and post-rock perhaps, but really only fitting nothing but its own brand of floaty dreaminess.
The collaborative artist here – known as 'Tape' – and his style of laptop-folk (as bizarre as that sounds) has clearly gone to work in many of the background pieces, creating a rich and vibrant world for them to play around in. Everything feels almost callous, the notes not feeling perfectly regular in the manner they're played but undulating, flowing like an ocean with subtle fluid changes in the speed the instruments are played. It would all sound chaotic if you tried to follow the separate lines of glockenspiel, guitars, marching-band drumming, flutes, and so on, but it's been tweaked and tinkered with to get the balance just right. It never feels obtrusive or over the top; the whole release sounds like the fragile wing of a butterfly; delicate, beautiful and yet childish and playful at the same time, the multiple layers serving only to bring the piece to life.
The instantly recognisable vocals are entirely tonal, many tracks even utilising more of a scat with tones chosen for the way they sound rather than any lyrical requirement. The manner they are left open and on display does nothing to detract from the piece either, enhancing the overall sense of realistic humanity that presents itself through her gentle wailing and softly sung melancholy. The mood shifts between depressive and joyful but it never strays far from this sense of innocence that runs at their core, each track seeming to take its own idea or atmosphere and integrating that with their core philosophy. Whether you're playing on the suburban streets in 'Baibaba Bimba' or watching the autumnal leaves fall in 'One Swan Swim,' this is one release that never fails to evoke my thoughts.