Tender Games is the project between Marlon Hoffstadt and HRRSN, head of the Berlin-based Well Done! imprint. Both established producers in their own right, they’ve shifted their sonic-palette away from house-based sounds to create an LP that has all the makings of a future soul classic.
Oozing with rich harmonies and warm grooves, the Tender Games sound is much more indebted to the UK club scene than to the darker, heavier timbres their hometown Berlin is associated with. By deliberately going against the city’s status-quo of technoid bleeps-and-squeaks, this album represents not just an artistic expression but a mission statement of sorts.
The duo’s disparate influences have come together to create a distinctive new sound; the 20 yearold Hoffstadt’s house leanings are prominent, whilst HRRSN has drawn from garage, blues and even folk. The album came together over the space of a year or so in the enviably decked-out studio of fellow Suolmates Chopstick & Johnjon, and features a wealth of guest vocalists and live instrumentation courtesy of HRRSN. The finished result is one which sounds lush, organic, and most of all, fresh.
Your Perception’ makes album’s cultural alignments quite clear, kicking things off with a classic British 2-step garage beat, vocal chops and a searing synth lead which sets the tone for the rest of the LP. In ‘Lost’, the listener is eased in with a delicate Rhodes motifs, before breaking into HRRSN’s soulful croon in its majestic glory for the first time.
‘Make Believe’ ups the tempo with inspiring vocal performances from Yvy Coe and Stee Downes, the latter of which is better known as the voice behind Lovebirds’ now seminal underground classic ‘Want You In My Soul’. ‘Want It All’s bumping house beat takes things out of the lounge and firmly into dancefloor territory, with New Jersey chord stabs and swung garage drums. After reaching a steadily controlled crescendo, ‘In Her Bed’ slams on the brakes for an unexpected, all-out blues ballad, complete with a delicately smoky vocal performance from Miss NatNat.
The stripped-back bedtime lull of the album’s opening single ‘In A Mess’ again features HRRSN’s haunting vocal performance, along with twinkling, lustrous Rhodes piano chords and warm bassline.
‘City Lights’ carries itself with a spacious lope and hot-blooded sensual swagger, with impassioned lyrical content which makes for heady listening. The album is rounded off by the whomping bass of ‘Freak In The Sheets’, underpinned by the vocal talents of Forrest who is known for his previous excursions on Visionquest, 2020Visions and Mobilee.
All in all, whilst comparisons to the likes of Disclosure and their ilk may be expected, the myriad of different styles touched upon in Distinctions demonstrate a versatility that gives Tender Games a sound all of their own. And when the music is this good, who could help but excited?