This is an entry in an ongoing series for 303 Magazine, which will provide a range of local album reviews. It is our intention to highlight the talents of local musicians, whether veterans to the industry or newcomers. Like the bands, the album can be fresh or something we just haven’t had the power to take off repeat in the past few months. Check out previous entries in the series here.

Local electro-funk group Tnertle is back, but they haven’t been away long. Just last year frontman and founder Trent Campbell and crew released Monsters Out West — their most complex, exciting and “dope” EP to date. They weren’t done there, though. Tnertle released Live at Sonic Bloom just this year with guest electronic cellist Keith Snow. Now they’re continuing their steam — far from the pace of a turtle — with the new album, Burning Down the Sun. 

In a press release, Campbell explained the futuristic story behind Burning Down the Sun which revolves around a turtle government and their leader, Enzo’s, journey. “While working on titling the album, I explored a concept where there is a planet of turtles and their sun is getting too big and going to explode soon and destroy their solar system. Because of that, they come up with a plan to burn down the sun before it explodes and the turtles relocate to a new solar system. Enzo is the turtle who leads the mission to the sun to try and burn it down before it explodes.”

The new album features guests such as frequent Tnertle feature Raymond Salazar as well as Keith Snow (Tori Amos, Billie Eilish) — the band’s electronic cellist. Kicking off Burning Down the Sun is a track Tnertle fans will recognize all too well. “Crompstomper” has been performed at essentially every Tnertle show for the past four years. Campbell has been working with the song for almost a decade, making this a serendipitous start to the album.

“Petrichor Feeling” comes next, the track featuring cellist Keith Snow. This one has more of a soundtrack-vibe to it than Tnertle’s previous material, tying the album perfectly into the Enzo storyline. It flaunts western-feeling melodies and samples, and of course the electric cello, all orchestrated with a dance beat. Knowing the backstory of Burning Down the Sun, this one will truly have you envisioning the heroic turtle’s space journey. At this point in the story, the turtle race has realized they’ve used up their planet to its capacity and need to move on. The song represents both the mourning of their lost homeland and the memories that came with it, but the excitement to move on.

Track two is another song familiar to Tnertle fans being something we’ve also heard live in the past. “Peace Sign” is one of three tracks on the album that features Salazar, spitting the hip-hop tunes on top of the songs. It’s a more serious track. Enzo — our turtle protagonist — is now amidst chaos attempting to keep the peace. But the beat picks up on the next song, “Apollo’s Outpost” which will have you shaking your ass and shimmying your shoulders within the first 20 seconds. The track represents Enzo’s 200-mile outer space journey to save his turtle race, escaping to none other than Apollo’s Outpost. With this track, Tnertle flaunts their ability to make anyone move, especially in the bridge which spotlights an exciting flute solo and an intense build before the drop of their signature horn melodies and diving into brief but catchy hip-hop/dance samples. “Apollo’s Outpost” is easily a favorite on Burning Down the Sun.

Impact, Jeraff, TNERTLE, Tyler Harvey, Kyle Cooper, 303 Magazine, Denver

Salazar’s second featured track comes next — “Sounds Like Home.” This is where Tnertle’s style of funk is truly highlighted on the album, blended simultaneously with Salazar’s bars. It’s an example of how the album effortlessly balances a seriousness while remaining dance-inspired and moveable. This is especially shown during the climax of the storyline, “Enzo’s Attempt,” where Enzo is finally attempting to burn down the sun.

Another dance hit titled “Digital Nomads” comes next, chronicling Enzo’s attempt to defeat such nomads, thwarting his mission. The album ends serendipitously with the final track featuring Salazar — “Big Squad.” It’s a celebratory sound, with Enzo having burned down the sun and is finally reunited with his crew.

Raymond Salazar. Photo by Tyler Harvey

With Burning Down the Sun, Tnertle has embraced their past, present and future. The album combines the group’s classic elements and original features with a futuristic and fun, yet politically-topical storyline. But they’ve also expanded their current sound and even brought some of the band’s live tracks to fruition. Burning Down the Sun is a not-to-miss local album, and just one more reason to keep Tnertle on your radar.

Tnertle began their West Coast tour on November 1 in Salt Lake City and are playing a hometown show on December 8 at Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom. Go here for a full list of tour dates and tickets. All photography by Kyle Cooper unless otherwise stated.