‘On The Wire’ signalled a developing maturity after the electro rock anthems of debut ‘Stateless’, with songs like ‘Blinded by You’ borrowing the pop focussed elements of THE HUMAN LEAGUE while ‘The Art Of Evasion’ recalled imperial TEARS FOR FEARS. But the best song in the TENEK canon emerged in 2011 with ‘What Do You Want?’ from ‘EP2’.
Featuring the virtuoso violin skills of Chris Payne, the neo-classical tapestry added a new subtle dimension to TENEK’s sound and incorporated the best of ULTRAVOX and A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS.
It appeared to be a sign of things to come, but ‘Another Day’ released in 2013 saw a return to the more anthemic template of ‘Stateless’. With the TENEK sound now everywhere within the UK independent electronic scene thanks to the duo’s Geoff Pinckney applying his production touch to EURASIANEYES, SINESTAR, LOW TIDE THEORY and MODOVAR among many, ‘Smoke & Mirrors’ is TENEK’s opportunity to cement their reputation. But it has been a long time coming… are Geoff Pinckney and Pete Steer as hungry as they once were?
For this album, there is a change in direction with drummer Steve Clark making his presence felt on seven tracks. Thus ‘Smoke & Mirrors’ is a little rockier in places, but the electronic elements remain.
Lead single ‘What Kind Of Friend?’ sets the template, a rousing rock out that grooves thanks to the bass augmentation of Michael Steer.
But sequenced before it, opening number ‘Everything Lost’ is a marvellous, funk laden number that sparks a new chapter in TENEK.
It recalls ‘Ice Fields’ from TENEK’s debut EP, which itself appropriated the bassline from SIMPLE MINDS ‘Love Song’. The funkier mantra continues on ‘Fear For Nothing’ and recalls GARY NUMAN’s experiments with slap bass, the most obvious reference point being ‘My Centurion’ from ‘Warriors’.
‘Blue Man’ hits FM ballad territory, while dubstep elements dress up the melodic rock out of ‘Headlights’. But a more electronic template manifests itself on the excellent ‘Sunlight’ and manages that rare feat of combining atmosphere and danceability with eerie synths and crunchy percussive effects; it’s one of the album’s highlights for sure.
A great synth line introduces ‘Imitation of Life’ and the vocal almost Ure’s towards some of EURASIANEYES recent output, hardly surprising when the two combos joined together on their single ‘Call Your God’. The smooth melodicism of ‘Soloman’ adds some subtlety to proceedings as a breather from the electro rock before the closing title track. Almost trip-hoppy in its rhythm construction, the ‘Smoke & Mirrors’ song labours a little, but is saved by some bright synth interplay after the choruses.
The inclusion of both ‘Another Day’ and ‘A New Foundation’ may disappoint those who purchased the EP in 2013, but it does make the album more accessible while offering something new with the remainder of the tracklisting.
An accomplished recording, ‘Smoke & Mirrors’ will more than satisfy TENEK’s loyal following and will ensure that Messrs Pinckney and Steer will continue to be a much sought after live attraction on Europe’s alternative electronic music scene for a few more years yet.
‘Smoke & Mirrors’ can be pre-ordered from 16th November 2015 as a CD or download from
http://www.tenek.co.uk/shop/ or https://tenek.bandcamp.com/ for a release on 28th November. A full digital release takes place on 8th January 2016
Text by Chi Ming Lai
10th November 2015