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Tennis (1) - Furlines

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Artist: Tennis (1)

Album: Furlines

Label: Bip-Hop

Review date: May. 13, 2003

The Sound of Trees Falling in the Woods

It is important to consider, when approaching the music of this record, that Tennis has attempted to create a conceptual message that ventures beyond the mere collection of songs. Furlines is contextual music, better understood, like a cinematic score, as accompaniment to a larger, three-dimensional setting. It is also incidental music, and the context is your life and however you spend it in your downtime, be it driving, napping, making love, or coming down off of foreign substances.

In 1978 Brian Eno described, in the liner notes of the American release of Ambient 1: Music for Airports, his vision of an engaging incidental music. “Whereas the extant canned music companies proceed from the basis of regularizing environments by blanketing their acoustic and atmospheric idiosyncrasies,” he stated, “Ambient Music is intended to enhance these.” The enhancement of the idiosyncratic nature of acoustics and atmosphere is, of course, a goal that leaves a lot to the subjective nature of the environment in which the music is played. Which is to say, on some level, that without a considerably controlled environment, the listener is going to get something different out of the music with each listen. And in the case of Tennis, who appear to be a little less concerned with the science of it all, this proves to be a rewarding dynamic.

Tennis is comprised of Ben Edwards (who also records as Benge) and Douglas Benford (a.k.a. Si-cut.db), who have recorded one other collection under the name Tennis. For the uninitiated, this record is a great introduction to the varied musical makeup of Bip-Hop, which runs the gamut from (way) downtempo to incidental to slightly nondescript. Like much of the music on Bip-Hop, this is background music that enhances moods very subtly and very unobtrusively.

As electronic music goes, Furlines more suited to the chill-out room than the club proper, and it’s ultimately the stuff of the bedroom musician. Those not particularly versed in Ambient Techno but fond of Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works collections will hear the influences of those watershed records, as one might in a lot of contemporary Ambient music.

The record opens with a significant Kraftwerk reference, broadening the historical scope a bit. Spare beats and tinkering, melodic keyboard lines fill the majority of the album, and the overall spacey sound that envelopes the slight instrumentation owes a lot to dub. The moody meanderings of Radian can be heard throughout, along with the sound of a subdued Autechre and especially the lighter side of Mouse On Mars.

Listeners intent upon engagement at all times may have a rough time taking on this record in its entirety. There are a few vibrant points, particularly the relatively up-tempo “Vole Shapes,” and “Badger Tracks”, which features spliced beats, tape manipulations – bringing to mind Prefuse 73 – and considerable play with the recording levels (one of this record’s recurring tricks). Midway through the album, “Pine Martin Eden” eventually gives way to a mild House thump that is nearly inaudible, restating the album’s larger concern that electronic music need not be about beats.

Included is a bonus disc with over an hour’s worth of remixes of songs form Tennis’ first recording Europe On Horseback. The project, which features mixes by Scanner, Taylor Deupree and Kim Cascone, moves a lot closer to dance-ability while maintaining the overall integrity of the album as a collection of soundscapes.

By Cory O'Malley

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