Bruno Reynell reviews Tennyson at Mangle E8.
Hailing from Edmonton, Canada, Tennyson are an electronic duo consisting of elder brother Luke and younger sister Tess. They are both extremely young (Luke is in his very early 20s and Tess recently graduated from high school), almost ludicrously so, considering they’ve been releasing tracks for a good five years now. For large parts of September and October they have been touring all around the US, but last Sunday it was London’s turn to be treated as they headlined at Mangle E8 in Dalston.
Mangle E8 is an intimate space, and this is not a large show. Having arrived a mere twenty minutes before Tennyson’s performance, I still find myself standing just three rows from the front. A real sense of anticipation pervades the air; there aren’t too many of us here, but everyone knows that we’re in for a good night.
Of the siblings, it is Luke who takes charge of the electronics, while Tess plays drums. Their tracks vary quite significantly – at times they’re ambient (particularly their early work), while at others they fizz and burst, bringing to mind the energy of tracks by artists like Cashmere Cat. The sounds they create all have one thing in common: they are consistently intriguing. Atmospheric tones combine with a veritable cornucopia of weird and wonderful noises. Taking Like What, the opener of their 2015 EP of the same name, as an example, the track dips and dives between underlying ethereal notes and an eclectic smattering of other elements (sharp intakes of breath, cowbells and so much more).
Their musical education has apparently leant heavily on jazz, and the influence of this is clearly seen in the performances of songs such as the bubbly With You, whether it be through Tess’ impeccable timing on the drums or through small improvised sections played by Luke on keyboard.
The climax of the show, however, has to be Lay-by. The track starts with Luke producing a single repeating sound (that complaining sound that a car makes when its door hasn’t been closed properly), over which he builds various elements as he relentlessly flies back and forth between his various instruments, fully engrossed in the sounds he is producing. Add in some neat drum work from Tess, and you have a hypnotising delight that effuses quality.
Aside from their technical precociousness, these are no moody youths emerging from adolescence either. More than happy to interact with their audience, they have an endearing stage presence. This is coupled with a refreshing sense of humour – a couple of times they restart songs, and Luke deals with a sore throat all evening, but they laugh all of this off without letting it bother them.
More than anything, they just look like they are having a great time performing, and it’s very easy to enjoy watching a group when you get the impression that they are enjoying the gig just as much as you are. Their most recent EP, Uh Oh!, was released in late September and presents a group whose sound is in constant evolution, but who have equally lost none of the charm of their previous efforts. The thought that they have so many years ahead of them is an exciting prospect.
Featured image credit: Tennyson