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  • Filed under: Review
  • 11/07/2012

Tensnake Mainline

Over the past two years, Tensnake's career has largely consisted of the German producer carefully tip-toeing around a proper follow-up to "Coma Cat," the all-everything jam that established him as the hotly tipped house maven he is today. While nothing Tensnake has released since has breached those heights, the scant few singles he's offered—"Mainline," for Defected, is just his fourth post-"Coma Cat" offering, counting the Live package—have all been built on the same tenet that "Coma Cat" was: that fans of underground dance music appreciate shameless, bold anthems as much as anyone, and that fists can pump as righteously in Berlin as they do in Ibiza, given the right soundtrack.

"Mainline," featuring Syron on vocals, attempts to be just that; it's as fearless as "Coma Cat," but lacks its singularity. Defected is a perfect label for Tensnake, as his clippy vocal figures owe much to Marc Kinchen's dubs for the label. Built around a delicious but overly familiar three-chord organ vamp, "Mainline" offers plenty of space for Syron's trad-y diva stylings. "You're working on the mainlines of my love!" she wails, before Tensnake nabs the voice and chops it into his stew. The pieces—which include a simple, staccato bassline—fit together perhaps too seamlessly; like a choreographed cheer competition, there's a sense of inevitability and planning to "Mainline" that undermines its enthusiasm. It's masterful execution but stone-simple conceptually, perhaps the first time Tensnake's formalism has overshadowed his playfulness.

The b-side's dub edit is preferable mostly because it adds some shade to the track, which is otherwise like a photo taken under direct, bleaching light. Here, the organs are dulled to a matte gray, as Tensnake lets short, sharp snippets of Syron's performance rub against the track's bass. But no one looks to Tensnake for sturm und drang; the cheap thrills really are what people are here for. Tensnake's gift is never making them seem all that cheap. "Mainline," short and bright and melodically rich, doesn't seem cheap either, just a bit threadbare.

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