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Glow Ed Ledsham , March 27th, 2014 09:17

Glow is the debut album from Tensnake, the Hamburg producer best-known for his 2010 hit 'Coma Cat'. Marco Niemerski has been keen to separate himself from the nu-disco tag with which he has been lumbered, and Glow finds him exploring 80s pop, house, early-00s R&B and even a few hints of SBTRKT-ish contemporary pop-dance. The album features guest spots from MNEK, Jamie Lidell, Jacques Lu Cont, vocalist Fiora and the currently ubiquitous Nile Rodgers. After working with Daft Punk and Disclosure, Rodgers has established himself as the go-to collaborator for dance producers who wish to add some disco 'authenticity' to their work.

The first track, entitled 'First Song', is one of the stronger moments, with wordless vocals, arpeggiators and pulsing bass playing off each other well. It bodes well for an album to be a work of Kavinsky or M83 esque synth fun. However, next track 'Love Sublime' with its muted 'Coma Cat' chords, sounds rather dull. As Tensnake's sound has moved away from the instrumental house of that hit you might have expected his songwriting to evolve. Instead, tracks like 'Kill The Time' and 'See Right Through' feature vocal contributions that are, unfortunately, forgettable.

Some moments do work better, especially when Niemerski uses his collaborators (and especially Fiora) in more interesting ways, such as on 'Listen Everybody' and '58 bpm'. The latter is possibly the album's strongest cut, using a Prince-esque Linn drum beat as the base for some inspired gender-warped vocal programming. 'Pressure' and 'Feel of Love' are not bad, but never quite fulfil their ambitions to be truly great pop songs, though they might benefit from the attentions of a remixer.

The real undoing of Glow, though, is the skit 'Ten Minutes'. The track features an inebriated EDM fan chastising Tensnake's music for its “tinkly 80's c'mon lets wear a tanktop” vibe and demands “big bass, waa waa like dubstep like clubstep electro”. You might have expected Niemerski to use this appropriation of an EDM trope to then offer up some kind of subversive gesture. Instead of the expected mocking whump, though, all we get is a particularly meek vocoder, and Tensnake's joke collapses like a bad blancmange.

Much of Glow is tasteful to the point of bland inoffensiveness, the sort of thing that'd suit a branch of All Bar One at half nine on a Friday night. If the house and disco that the German producer loves was an attempt to reach a sort of ecstasy through the communal area of a dancefloor, Glow misses the point and attempts to recreate a simulacrum of the sound of the music while sidestepping the spirit. 'Ten Minutes' snobbishness towards EDM turns a bland album sour, while Tensnake's self-conscious use of retro production tricks does little to argue for their importance. This is dance music conservatism at its worst.

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