Switched On – Jimi Tenor: Ny, Hel, Barca (1994-2001) (Bureau B)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

NY, Hel, Barca are the abbreviations of the three cities Finnish producer Jimi Tenor has called home at some point in his life. They also form the title of a retrospective looking at his early career, a double album bringing together music made largely before signing to Warp. That means pride of place for Take Me Baby, the track that got him signed – but which we find is not typical of his output of that period. It is therefore up to Bureau B to give a balanced overview from his first six albums in total.

What’s the music like?

In a word, eclectic – but many more words are needed to do justice to the sheer variety of the sounds here. When Tenor (real name Lassi O. T. Lehto) embarked on his solo career in the early 1990s the presence of jazz was strong in his music, but this selection shows how he has used it to infuse a variety of genres.

Tenor can be something of a master in deep house (A Daughter Of The Snow), but thinks nothing of more wild, experimental musings like Tesla, where the saxophone takes centre stage. There is chunky and cheeky house, the best of which is a genuine anthem, Age Of The Apocalypse – and uncomfortably suitable for the present day, facing its demise but having a great time while doing so! Spell casts off its cares for a few funky choruses, Rubberdressing is as elastic as its name implies, while Sugardaddy throws a few glam rock rhythms into the mix. Then there is Take Me Now – still a deadpan winner 26 years on.

Does it all work?

Most of the time. Some of Tenor’s earlier productions show their age, especially the more salacious house tracks – but overall this is a really rewarding and stimulating collection of music. It is well chosen and well programmed, but shows off his original instincts. None of this music is routine, and a lot of it is really good fun.

Is it recommended?

Very much so. An excellent collection of a producer who has been a deserved mainstay of electronica’s top table for more than two decades, and whose music can cover a wide selection of dancefloors. It should encourage listeners to delve even further into his considerable early output. I know I will!

Stream

This Spotify playlist very helpfully brings together all the tracks on Jimi Tenor’s collection:

Buy

You can buy this compilation from the Rough Trade website here

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