[Smoke & Mirrors cover]"Smoke & Mirrors" (Album, 2015) !Recommended!

Alien Six Productions

This latest album from Tenek was three long years in the making. Which, when you listen to the production alone, you can readily believe.

Tenek occupy their own special musical place. There's hints, echoes and traces of other electronic (and guitar) bands, essentially their heroes, surfacing from time to time. In part one suspects by overt homage, in part subliminal influence. Nevertheless, Tenek have steadily explored and carved out their own niche and it's one that's reached the pinnacle of execution.

Looking from the outside, it's hard to image a more complementary double act. With Geoff Pinckney and Peter Steer about evenly distributing the workload. Both being multi-instrumentalists, and vocalists, both drawing inspiration from similar musical reference points. They seem to be the perfect foil for one another.

The first half of the album feels more dedicated to creating the archetypal Tenek sound, with the lyrical rhyming so typical of their writing, structural pauses, bridges and breaks. I love the first 20 seconds of Fear For Nothing - it sounds like the intro to one of Simple Minds' funky best, and Another Day we know from the 2013 EP of the same name. The cinematic moody slickness of Blue Man wouldn't be out of place in Michael Mann's dark reimagining of Miami Vice.

However, it's the second half of the album that really sets this apart.

A New Foundation sees Tenek soaring in fine fashion. This is the album version of a song that also first appeared on the preceeding Another Day. I liked it then, I love it now. Sunlight recalls the snappy dance/rock/pop crossover that German outfit Sono regularly achieve. If Tenek could secure a tour support slot with them, the Sono fans should be easily converted (and the merchandise sales for Tenek could be substantial!). Imitation of Life utilises a motoring bass guitar, synth strings, percussion (the programming of which throughout the entire album deserves special acknowledgement) that comes across like a played kit, and a lead vocal line all straight out of the 1980s and yet it never sounds retro, it's entirely contemporary. Tenek to a T.

Soloman is another outstanding foray into mid-tempo territory, the spot where I'm usually most rewarded by Tenek's writing. It also happens to showcase a beautifully shimmering six-note melody the likes of which any artist would give their right arm to have laid claim to. The titular Smoke & Mirrors closes proceedings with backing elements that instantly recall Depeche Mode, but this isn't lazy mimicry, rather the ideal send off to what has been a journey packed with richness, light and darkness, inspiration and reflection.  

Could Smoke & Mirrors be the best thing Tenek have ever released? You bet it is. 8/10 

Rob Dyer (January 2016)

[Another Day cover]"Another Day" (EP, 2013)

Alien Six Productions

Another day for Tenek it seems is producing more superslick electropop the likes of which is still rare despite the volume of acts investing their efforts in this often maligned genre. Having just finished a UK tour supporting a resurgent Rebublica, it still beggars belief that Tenek are not a bigger name both here in the UK and abroad. For me this doesn't reach the compositional heights of their previous EP2, but then I thought that contained possibly the best Tenek song ever, so that's not much of a slight. 

Another Day sees Peter Steer on lead vocal duties on a classically styled Tenek song – albeit one where their guitars taking a backing role rather than lead the melody. The "I never told you” choral refrain is trademark Tenek ensuring this earworm is likely to stick with you long after you stopped listening. A New Foundation is a touch more introspective and with its more measured BPMs, expansive breaks, and nice production detailing is my preferred cut of the two. There's echoes of Depeche Mode and Mesh in those details. I particularly like the line the vocals take and the lyrics are very effective. 

There's an Alien Six (aka Pinckney) remix of Elusive, from the previous release, featuring an extended instrumental intro that concentrates on the dancefloor. Whilst the headline track reappears in a seven-minute remix by Airwolf One, rounding-off another rock-solid Tenek release. Having picked this up (literally if you wish - it's available in both physical and digital versions) the only question fans will understandably be asking is when exactly they can expect that third Tenek long-player due sometime this year. 7/10 

Rob Dyer (April 2013)

[EP2 cover]"EP2" (EP, 2011)

Toffeetones Records

Few UK electronic pop acts manage to produce as professionally polished a sound as Tenek do. A look at the background of members Geoff Pinckney and Peter Steer readily explains that fact. But the production on this really is about as good as it gets. Fortunately, the songwriting hasn’t been neglected in any of this, with the mighty opening track What Do You Want? just about the best Tenek composition to date.

Four cascading notes on a piano are quickly enveloped within sumptuous strings, cello and a striking violin melody (courtesy of Numan collaborator Chris Payne) and we’re into the first, driving verse of this cracking track – which only improves as a mellow guitar sound comes in on verse two reminding me of old Clan of Xymox material. The almost ruthlessly manipulative chorus is bound to be a corker live in terms of audience participation. 

Track three, The Art of Evasion, prompts thoughts of Songs From The Big Chair era Tears For Fears with its spacious arrangement of keys, strings and soaring lead vocals by Steer. Meanwhile, on Higher Ground Steers voice heads off in another direction, making you realise that between them, Pinckney and Steer can produce quite varied styles, resulting in plenty of dynamic range. A distinctive asset and one they leverage to its maximum potential without resorting to distracting trickery.

This is the band’s eighth release, having steadily released a cluster of maxis, singles and two albums since their debut EP in 2007. Their work ethic suggests they don’t stretch themselves too thinly, preferring to keep the quality high and quantity sensible. Something an awful lot of their would-be competitors for your attention would be wise to pause and reflect on.

For some, this may be too smooth, too polished, too clean. Those who like their synthpop edgier or featuring a bit of dirt may be left wanting. Others though, and one suspects given half the chance of exposure, a far wider general public, should find the potent combination of accomplished technical ability and natural talent for crafting fine pop songs instantly accessible and rewarding. 8/10 

Rob Dyer (February 2012)

See also:
Alien 6
The Nine