CULTURE

Electronica’s laid-back Jimi Tenor

Classically trained but currently switched on to electronica, with a side interest in experimental filmmaking and fashion design, the quirky, multifaceted Finnish artist Jimi Tenor likes to assert that his greatest talent is faking, or making others believe that he possesses talent when he does not. Whether it’s genuinely talent or not, Tenor has managed to attract a considerable cult following in various parts of the world. Reflecting his wide fan base, Tenor is presently on a short yet extensive 15-date tour that began in Rome last week and winds up in Tokyo in late April, but not before passing through Athens this Friday night. Tenor, who grew up in Finland but now resides in the warmer Barcelona, Spain with his wife, Nicole Willis, a soul singer, released his first two albums with the Finnish label Sakho, home to many of the country’s techno acts, before the influential British label Warp took note of his second album, 1995’s «Europa,» and offered him a deal. The musician, who as a solo artist has been rendering stylish, laid-back hybrid material combining jazz, funk, soul and techno, lived up to his new label’s faith in him to deliver 1997’s critically acclaimed «Intervision.» Impressed by the result, Warp decided to rerelease Tenor’s first two albums. On the Sheffield-based Warp label, Tenor also released 1999’s «Organism,» and, a year later, «Out of Nowhere,» which was recorded in Poland with a symphony orchestra, before an amicable split led to the artist’s return to the Finnish Sakho label. The return was marked by the release of last year’s EP «Cosmic Relief,» and an album, «Utopian Dream.» A seasoned player long before his emergence as a solo artist, Tenor also once fronted an industrial band, the Shamans, which failed to make much commercial impact with four albums released between 1989 and 1992. Tenor had formed that band after a brief two-show tenure with enduring fellow industrial band Einsturzende Neubauten, fronted by Blixa Bargeld, also a core member of Nick Cave’s backing band, the Bad Seeds. Though radically different, or far milder, than the abrasive material of his «industrial» days, Tenor’s ensuing solo work does bear some resemblance in terms of approach. Despite his extensive musical training, Tenor, who spent over a decade studying piano, flute and saxophone at a Finnish conservatory, likes to inject intentional imperfection into his work. In past interviews, Tenor has condemned modern electronic music for its lifeless precision. Compared to his peers, Tenor’s references of influences differ. Unlike most electronica artists who cite older acts such as Kraftwerk or Carl Craig as influences, Tenor leans more toward names like Barry White, Isaac Hayes, and 1970s B-movie and «blaxploitation» soundtracks. Besides music, Tenor, who was born as Lassi Lehto – his acquired name combines his favorite instrument, the «tenor» sax, and a childhood resemblance with the 1970s pop star Jimmy Osmond – has also been active in experimental film, as local concertgoers will find out on Friday night. Two of Tenor’s experimental films, 1994’s absurdly titled «Urinator,» about a villain ruler of the world and the effort made to overthrow him, and 1992’s «Dr Abortenstein,» a film inspired by 1930s horror movies, will be screened on the night of the show. His other sideline activity, fashion design, began to surface in the mid-1990s. Tenor’s aptly titled «Tenorwear» label, the artist says, is based on the concept of designing «everyday clothes with little unique details,» such as pants that convert from straight-leg to baggy or flares with the help of strategically placed zips. For interested parties, Tenorwear is currently available only in a Helsinki store called Limbo. Returning to the upcoming show, this Friday night’s combined offering of up-to-date music by one of electronica’s noteworthy examples, eccentric films, and smart on-stage attire, could make for an interestingly bizarre night out. Jimi Tenor will be playing Friday at 9 p.m. at Club 22, 22 Vouliagmenis Ave, Athens, tel 010.924.9814. Tickets, priced at 22 euros, are on sale at the venue door and at downtown record stores.