[I strongly recommend listening to the EP while reading this review. You can do this by FIRST stopping the doobie stream from playing, which is on the right hand column, and SECOND by just clicking play on the Soundcloud link at the bottom of this article and then scroll back up]
There are times when I listen to a new artist, and for days their music completely encapsulates me. The brother sister duo from Edmonton Canada, Tennyson, have just released their long-awaited EP ‘Like What’ on Soundcloud for free and it is fantastic, to say the least.
Never before have I heard such an intricate and complex, but seemingly effortless 20 minutes of music in my life. The way the siblings bring such breeziness to their music, it seems to almost dance around and joke with the listener while remaining smoothly present. They will use samples of walking, breathing, phones ringing, and other often heard noises in our lives that are so subtle it is hard to not mistake them for your own as you listen to their music.
Luke, 20, and his younger sister by two years, Tess, have always had a musical influence in their lives. When they were young they would cover Beatles songs and play for other Edmonton residents in the downtown streets.Their father, a professional drummer, exposed the duo to traveling and playing in front of live audiences at a very young age. By middle school Luke and Tess were traveling with their father all across Canada playing jazz covers. It wasn’t until three years ago that Luke, performing solo under the name Tennyson, decided to make it a family affair and have his sister Tess play the percussion parts of his new jazz electronic creations.
Their first breakthrough song came a year ago and was titled ‘No Answer’. The song received over half a million views to date and everything that has been released after it has gained popular support with their most popular, ‘With You’, at around a million views on Soundcloud.
Now one may think this is not a lot of views compared to other electronic artists such as Diplo, Armin van Buuren, and Skrillex, all of whom receive millions of listens per day, but Tennyson is a unique creature. First off, Luke takes it on himself to write every part of the song, even his sisters drum section.
In Tess’s own words:
“He’ll write a drum part and he won’t think about it and then he’ll come into my room or whatever, and be like, ‘You can’t play this drum part. But you have to play this drum part. But you can’t play it.”
This shows that from the beginning Luke has extreme complexity in mind that even a seasoned drummer such as Tess will have difficulty performing. The short 20 minutes of music on ‘Like What’ did not come easy. Luke mentions in an interview that it took him at least two to three months for each song on the track. The time comes from both the immense detail in his music, his fear that he is not getting better, and his anxiety over how the track will be perceived.
When asked what would happen if people didn’t like his music, Luke responded, “That happened once. It was more than a year ago. I made a track over a two month time period and was like, people are gonna enjoy this. And then I posted it and nobody really cared. And that was a turning point for me where I realized how to consider the audience, in a different way. Kind of like a pop mentality almost. People aren’t listening for real content. They’re listening for things they can go ‘Oh’ to. Popular electronic music has a lot of the same elements, just cause they figured out what people like to listen to. But I think you need both, you need to consider your audience the entire time you’re making music but also don’t lose your soul or anything.”
This is a very unique and honest approach that most producers do not talk about or are even aware of. In an electronic culture where raves and trap are king, it is easy to dilute the impression of the industry down to these elements. But both Luke and Tess agree that although you need to keep the audience’s preferences in mind, they are still artists and are going to put out what they think embodies their thoughts and feelings.
Along with the EP, Tennyson has released a very stylish short video about themselves titled, “Snowball Fights Are Such A Particular Thing”, which can be found here: youtu.be/hrVnd3aG3Sk . The video talks about their creative process, what they do when they have writers block, and how music has inspired their life as a whole.