Teni – Afrodisiac – Album Review
I love how every time I think I’ve reviewed it all, another genre pops up that I’ve put on the shelf for a while only to be resurrected by all of you wonderful independent artists and bands. Awwww! That’s sweet right? Well here’s something else that’s sweet – this album by Teni – Afrodisiac.
Ohhhhhh Teni. If you only knew that my afro grows from my chin and consumes my face…
First of all, it has been a long time since I hit up the afrobeat vibe – that would date all the way back to my days at my former online magazine (Kludge, R.I.P.) and reviewing Steel Pulse’s album True Democracy; if you know the album you’ll know that was some time ago now… Though my references might be a little thin in this category, Teni is also attempting something new, so a musical “guidebook” isn’t exactly needed either…
The question is, does it work? There are several things about it that work extremely well. The music is well chosen and the concept behind all of her music is fantastic; it’s nearly free-form poetry in accompaniment with diverse and rhythmic, jazzy beats.
It’s all quite well-played; some of the drums perhaps programmed or just dead-on beat. There’s a ton of innovation and originality in the music – check out the track “When Will It Be” and you’ll hear exactly what I hear.
The following track really says it all about Teni musically; “Wilderness” is a complete combo of jazz and reggae that works so well on all levels, with Teni herself fitting perfectly into this track. On a musical level, it’s nearly impossible to fault this album for everything it’s attempting to do; the beats and the basslines are infectious and guaranteed to capture your mind.
However – to ignore the feature artist in favor of the music for the entire review would just be plain rude! So let’s talk about Teni and her vocals, what she does and what she brings to these songs. It’s throwback for sure – this is classic smoky lounge vocal style with an Africana twist. If you were to ask me about nearly any of those artists of that time, from what I’ve seen, sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t – but they always took chances and risks and weren’t afraid of the music.
Teni isn’t afraid whatsoever. Each track, she comes at from multiple vocal angles with poetic lines that float along with the music. “Surrender” is another example of Teni working well with the style of the track and doing what she does best. She definitely has a sound and a style and I respect that – if I closed my eyes with a mix of 1000 songs on I could identify Teni’s music 100% of the time. That’s something that can elude an artist or band throughout the duration of their career – so Teni is starting off on the right path, there’s no doubt.
Polarizing. I love the word, I love the meaning, I love finding examples of it in real life and Teni’s vocal-style is going to be just that for listeners.
There are times where the music producer in me wishes that the producers and engineers of Teni’s music had pushed her 10% more for a few smoother performances…but in the end I more than likely would have left this to Teni’s intuition for how she wants to sound, much the same as I am sure they did as well.
That’s the difficult part in recording the vocals of the truly unique – who are we as producers to tell you when you “nailed it?” I can tell you all day long what a hit song is; but when it comes to how a vocalist wants to scream, freestyle or wander through their tracks – who are we to judge? At the end of the day a hit song isn’t always the end goal, and thankfully an artist like Teni has the integrity to stick to her style of artful music and not give in to sounding like anyone else.
Lyrically it flows like poetry. Themes of love, life, death, spirits, ressurection run throughout the album in a combination that’s somewhere along the lines of Portishead meets Sade.
Hey. C’mon. I told you my references might be a little thin…
Afrodisiac kept my interest – this I can say without hesitation. Whether it was the creativity and rhythm of the music or simply wondering what Teni would be up to next, I listened with full attention each time she’s come on this week in my rotation. There’s more than enough uniqueness in concept, sound and execution to warrant Teni as an artist of merit.
Check her out further at: https://www.facebook.com/Tenimusic
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