Tenderhost is a new six-piece jazz-rock band, formed under the leadership of Gabriel Levy who had previously gained prominence as the lead in the now-defunct: Sistertalk. Back in 2019, the disbandment of Levy’s previous venture had been somewhat of a shock, considering their apparent talent and potential.
But promises were made of a new project to come, and three long years later we have a new band, a new sound, and a new EP entitled: ‘The Tin’.
A great amount of attention has been paid to the film-noir murkiness of Tenderhost’s image, from the beautiful cover art to the greyscale promotional images. But nothing captures this smokiness better than the hushed quality of Levy’s vocals as ‘No Under, No Over’ begins.
There is a powerful dynamism to the way that this song builds, made possible by the band’s incredible tightness and creativity. In a small space of time, you are taken from a music-box Wurlitzer jingle, to a searing crescendo of saxophone and thunderous guitar, like a camera pulling backwards to reveal more and more of this ominous world that Tenderhost inhabits.
It’s cinematic and invigorating, and even as the song begins to distort and become increasingly intense, you can still feel a very clear sense of control and intention in the song writing and production. An excellently haunting opener.
From there we get to Tenderhost’s first single: ‘The Descent’ which is characteristically a more manic and ballistic tune, with stinging sax fills and rattling percussion. Again, it cannot be understated how well thought-out the production elements are on this EP, with this track being a prime example of how Tenderhost are able to balance eerie quiet and shocking noise with great fluidity.
Levy’s lyricism is also to be commended, especially in the intensely quotable lines of ‘After a Little While’. The instrumental break after the sentence: ‘Don’t pity me, I don’t pity you’ being one of my favourite moments on the EP. There isn’t any gimmickry to his dower and sombre tone, and his nightmarish reveries of social anxiety and waning confidence never feel melodramatic.
This song shows a softer side to Tenderhost, and one that I daresay is radio-friendly. This new musical direction seems to hold more nuance, especially where comparisons to Sistertalk are concerned. Levy has swapped mosh-pits for drum brushes, a no-wave punk band for a six-piece of professional jazz musicians; and together they have advanced his songwriting.
‘My House’ makes this point quite neatly, with the EP ending on a jaunty, off-kilter and foreboding track about being a miserable host. The performances are the driving force behind these qualities, and give so much character to the musical elements. The listener is never left to dwell on one section for too long, before a fresh element is added to the mix.
It’s a lively and open-ended way to end the EP, a question mark fading in as the screen reads: “The End”.
I think it suffices to say that ‘The Tin’ is a prelude to a career, or an establishing shot of a band before the spotlight finds them. I can only really give it the nicest of faults, and complain that it is too short, and that I was left wanting to hear more of the sound that Tenderhost has very delicately crafted.
‘The Tin’ is out now to stream via multiple channels.
You can also catch them opening for Treeboy and Arc at the Sebright Arms on the 18th of May, as well as at this year’s Green Man Festival in Wales, and Deershed Festival in Yorkshire.