Tensnake: A Hamburg Producer Slithers Between Bygone Eras and Funky Sounds.
- Words: Michael Harkin
- Photo: Sima Korenivski
Marco Niemerski, the Hamburg, Germany native known musically as Tensnake, doesn't mind when people point out his influences—he is, indeed, trying to make his music sound like the records he loves. "I get really excited when I come close to a point where it sounds like that," he says, and this excitement translates viscerally into the irrepressible joy that his tracks evoke on the dancefloor.
Niemerski's work isn't exactly pop, but the immediacy of what he does is just as important to him as the level of craft. This partly explains why there's no Tensnake album quite yet. At the time of our phone conversation, the affable Niemerski is at home between gigs, soon to complete the last remix he has slated for the year. Until now, he's preferred to release EPs and 12-inches, citing the speed of expression that those formats allow. An album will come—he's worked at it before—but he's too much of a perfectionist to hurry it. "I have to restart again and get some inspiration first," he explains. "I'll wait until I feel it's the right time to do it."
One can't fault him for working at his own pace—his quality control to date has been impeccable. Recreating and reimagining the old, but never recycling wholesale, the Tensnake singles and EPs of the last few years are a happy confluence of warm, vintage disco, boogie, and house sounds filtered through a Larry Levan-like lens of funky eclecticism. That said, Niemerski doesn't self-identify as a DJ. "I used to DJ some years ago, then I quit," he says with a laugh. "There are so many good DJs out there… I don't think the world needs another one."
Even as a producer, Tensnake shuns the idea of playing others' sounds. For instance, it'll occasionally seem like he has employed, say, a keyboard sample from a classic '80s house track, but it's nearly always a sound that he has generated himself. "If you're using samples in a creative way, that's fine, but playing everything and making it sound like a sample is more interesting to me," he explains. This process of reshaping his favorite records' sounds has lately resulted in Coma Cat, an EP that feels fresh yet bears few marks of the present. "Need Your Lovin" has the nostalgic glow of a Chaz Jankel disco cut, while the title track shuns subtlety in favor of tropical-tinged keys and house jubilance. Meanwhile, the warmth of 2008 space-disco track "Congolal" would dovetail nicely with Lindstrøm's most futuristic jams.
While his music often references the past, Tensnake is mostly definitely rooted in the present—next up is a release for Tim Sweeney's Beats in Space label, and Niemerski's own label, Mirau Musik, will be releasing a few records by younger producers this year. As Niemerski observes with delight, clubs everywhere seem to be catching up with his fun-loving mindset. "You find a lot of house music again… there are so many more melodies. People don't care if it's minimal or this or that—they just dance, party, and have fun."
The Coma Cat EP is out now on Permanent Vacation and Defected.
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