German producer Marco Niemerski has spent a long time getting to this point. Under his Tensnake name, he became synonymous with quality house music with speed, thanks to being informed by a love of disco and being rather masterly when it came to production.
This debut long player arrives after almost a decade of standalone tracks, and it’s immediately clear that the wait has been worth it. “Love Sublime” is a slinky 125bpm disco track, with urging vocals by Fiora (whose smoky vocals are on six of the tracks here) and the distinctive ‘wacka wacka’ guitar work of Nile Rogers. Rogers, again enjoying the payback of the Daft Punk effect, lifts a great tune into a modern day disco classic by playing the kind of riff that only he can play. He also appears later on “Good Enough to Keep”, saving a Mantronix-influenced house plodder by gifting it a riff that lifts it to something way beyond the average it would be without it.
“Pressure” uses the ‘work is boring’ analogy effectively, vocalist Thabo singin about “Sitting at work on a Monday morning, spreadsheet files and coffee pouring” over a beefy house track using classic sounding analogue synths, and a random slash of rock guitar, the outcome is “A revolution in my head, gimmie a palate, am’a paint this town red”. These words have been done over and over, but by using the kind of ear-worm chorus you’d expect in pop, it’s a rousing four perfect minutes of uplifting joy.
There’s even better here; “Feel of Love”, a collaboration with Stuart Price resurrecting his Jacques Lu Cont pseudonym, is a chunky slice of 80’s pop influenced house featuring one of the original house music vocalists from the early 90’s, Jamie Lidell. This fizzes like a million Mentos soaked in Coca Cola. If you ever wondered what eighties pop band Five Star would sound like if they were fronted by Andre 3000, this is it, and it sounds fantastic.
Niemerski is unashamed when it comes to revealing his influences, it’s apparent throughout Glow: funk, disco and of course house music are present, but there’s also plenty of 80’s pop and soul, the most successful attempts at which are the mid-tempo “Selfish” – it could be a response to Colonel Abrahams’ “Trapped” – and the dreamy 58 BPM which mixes Purple Rain-style drum patterns with True Blue era Madonna ballads with similarly epic results.
As a DJ, Tensnake peppers his set with harder edged electro and acid house. Such aspects aren’t represented much here, but when he does go down this route (“See Right Through” and “No Relief”), there’s nothing to differentiate this from anything else in the Beatport top 50 tech-house tracks of any week. The playfulness that he uses as an approach to the rest of the album is lost on these tracks, so it’s a wise move to limit his visitations to this area. Also, any previous indiscretions when it comes to unabashed cheese – see his track “Coma Cat” from 2010 – are also swept under the carpet. There’s thankfully nothing so chalkboard gratingly commercial as that here.
Content wise, Glow is everything you could want from a dance artist’s debut album. It’s produced well, it’s cheeky in parts, dark and suggestive in others and varied enough in regards to genre. One problem however is that the album seems to be sectioned into three ‘suites’ of tracks bunched together by mood. The first five are 80’s influenced party tunes, next five: disco pop, the latter five: atmospherics. This method is a mistake, as what you end up with is an album which is decidedly big tune heavy only at its beginning. Because those tracks are so effervescent, the album struggles to reach their heights again, despite the majority of the content being of such a high quality. Of course, this is nothing that a tinker around with the track list yourself won’t fix and when you have done so, you have one of the finest electronic albums of 2014 in your hands.