REVIEW: The Tendonites

TL;DR PULL QUOTE: The Tendonites (2009) is the Paul’s Boutique of the nerdcore and chiptune movements; dense, challenging, astonishing.

Spamtron is one elusive motherfucker. I was all set to write up a nice review of his previously-available-online-for free EP, D-Pad, but when I went to do some preliminary research for the review I found everything taken down- social media sites wiped clean or nearly so, website set to a blank index. Even more complicating- apparently D-Pad was an early version or protest release of some other album that was getting released through Crunchy Co or something and I don’t even know anymore.

Well, shit.

So after some frustrated Googling I lucked across this which I offer up to you instead. This is an amazing piece of win.

I really don’t think it’s an exaggeration to call The Tendonites the Paul’s Boutique of both the chiptune and nerdcore movements; a wild witch-brew about four or five styles simultaneously, this is an incredibly exciting release. This album doesn’t just raise the bar for both genres, it fucking breaks the bar in half over its knee and calls it a dirty, dirty bitch- and it likes it. You’ll like it, too.

That said, this is as challenging a release as it is astonishing, dense with tone-shifts and juxtapositions, with samples and noise. You might get a similar kind of listening-whiplash effect to Magic Hammer, which I reviewed last week; around the corners between tracks you might get cheery, chippy pop or you might get a faceful of broken noise. You’ll get smooth chiptune overlaid with deliberately atonal or distorted, smashed and distant vocals. Sometimes the vocals are programmed Dr. Sbaitso/ELIZA type processors.

Some of the chiptune elements crossover with those from Spamtron’s D-Pad; since the history of that album is so tangled it’s difficult to say which versions of which tracks came first where. It doesn’t really matter because the whole fully transcends the sum of the parts. Most of the tracks are fantastic. A few standouts:

“Pre-Op Robocop” and “According to the Tendonites” spin around NIN-flavored cores, while “Vida Bajida” and “I Stop at Dinner” tread closest to dubstep or grime.

“I Won’t Dance/We Will Be Back Forever” sounds like someone ran over Secret Machines with Mario’s barrel-smashing mallet before shifting into a triumphant guitar riff that would not be out of place in The Protomen’s songs.

“The Scorpion Changes the Color of the Mushroom” is haunting noise, fuzzy guitar ghosts wandering over a broken digital landscape; hints of a melody drift through, before emerging to collapse into CONET Project-like decay, while “Caffeine Dream” shifts around eerie Nanashi no Game territory and “AM/PM” invokes the Doc Britton recordings of Francis E. Dec before dropping into a bounce-the-back-end-with-a-40 beat.

It’s unbelievable to me that more people aren’t talking about this just because it’s from (gasp!) last year. That this should be offered to the internet for free is a goddamn miracle. Get it now while it still is free, before either the copyright or the fun police take it down.