Austin City Limits 2016: Brother-and-sister duo Tennyson pass the pop quiz

Precocious electronic duo Tennyson grooved and experimented early Saturday at the HomeAway stage with band-camp chops. We’re talking warm house samples, lively keys, and relentless beats from from siblings Luke and Tess Pretty.

The Edmonton, Canada, band is a one-week ACL pop in. The jazzy bedroom compositions recall James Blake circa 2011 when his foggy, downtempo crooning influenced a generation of DIY balladeers.

“ACL, oh my gosh, this is crazy,” Tess said.

The band is finding its footing, and apparently still a little starry-eyed about the occasion. In a white Adidas T-shirt, wiz kid Luke looks more like a YouTube teen idol than a resourceful songwriter. (According to his Twitter bio, he was born in 1996.)

Tess deftly ran her samples through an electronic drumkit, nailing every sound. She also worked in dynamic background harmonies to give the project a sense of human urgency.

At the outskirts of the stage, families of four watched and smiled. “Look, they’re brother and sister!” a mom said to a disinterested toddler. In years past, this staged was tightly walled off and lined with portable toilets. Now you can sit under the five trees aligning it, and walk back into the newly relocated Kiddie Limits area. Tennyson played expert border patrol between this rest area and the ACL rat race.

“We only play this song for very special audiences,” Tess said before the set closer, “Tomato Land.”

“[For] emergencies,” Luke added.

It’s a throwaway gimmick of a track, there to fill up space on the SoundCloud page. But, you know, they apparently had five more minutes to kill.

The crowd was thin and filled with toking teens. Luke and Tess playfully bantered. Luke snapped panoramic smartphone pictures. They rocked songs called “You’re Cute.” Best high school talent show set ever.


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