Terminal Sound System
(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

Compressor (2007) , 6.5/10
Constructing Towers (2008), 7/10

Australian duo Halo (drummer Robert Allen and bassist Skye Klein, also the brain behind Terminal Sound System) resurrected the ghosts of early Swans and Godflesh on Guattari (Relapse, 2001): sedate cyclopean drumming and industrial-grade bass lines regurgitating lava-like feedback that combined to create a disorienting sense of absence. Body Of Light (Relapse, 2003) was a less intimidating experience.

Halo's bassist Skye Klein had been active as Terminal Sound System since the late 1990s, releasing Solaris (Embryo, 1999) RH-8SB (Release Entertainment, 2002) and Last Night I Dreamed Of Armageddon (Hive, 2004).

Terminal Sound System interpreted drum'n'bass as a canvas to paint disorienting soundscapes. Compressor (Extreme, 2007) collects eight exercises in creating all-instrumental ambience out of chaotic metallic and wooden tinkling. Gridlike adds sequencer and warped drones to the beats. Black Note is even more amoebic in the way it blends reverbs and electronic noises and snippets of found sounds with slow-motion beats. 722 toys with discontinuity, as the beats are anemic, limping and occasionally disappear altogether, while barely-audible vibrations populate the ether. Sudden explosions of rhythm bring further instability to the fragile lattice. Mi Clatter has hardly beats at all. Jazz overtones surface in Ghost Summer, with the muted dissonant electronics playing the atmospheric role of Miles Davis' trumpet over a placid rainstorm of drumming. The seven-minute Decompensating further refines this concept, turning the electronic languor into distant evocative voices.
It is impressive how much Klein can achieve within the limitations of his style (he mainly uses rhythms, and a bit of electronics), but one wonders how much more he could achieve if he introduced more instruments or more electronics.

Constructing Towers (Extreme, 2008) displays more aggression and more variety. In Your Planet erupts with an interesting seemless combination of the space-rock crescendoes of Hawkwind, the prog-rock interplay of King Crimson, the fibrillating raga-rock of early Pink Floyd, and the booming atmospheres of doom-metal. Klein's experiments with drum'n'bass are brought to fruition in the expressionist nightmare of Constructing Towers, where a relentless rhythm punctuates floating dissonances and whispered vocals. The even more disorienting Year of the Pig sounds like the sound of asteroids colliding in space set to frantic drumming and funk guitar. The intensity evokes the industrial violence of Nine Inch Nails, although the means are completely different.
The eight-minute Alaska grants a relatively mellow pause although wrapped in pummeling rhythm. A (sung) melody soars above the dark thick sludge, although it is immediately swallowed in a black hole of astronaut-like voices and metal-like bass drones that eventually turns into a delicate cosmic shuffle. The album dramatically shifts gear with Wolves, a sleepy and jazzy trumpet wail swimming deconstructed into a rhythm-less psychedelic vibrato before the half-hearted majestic finale. Sunshine is another hallucinated jazzy intermezzo, and this time smooth and sleek.
Klein toys with evanescent rhythmic figures in Firefly Butoh. Then pens the ominous jazz vignette Duchamp Falls, perfect for a movie soundtrack of the Sixties. The last salvo, Zodiac, closes the album with a soaring distortion, an electronic imitation of shoegazing guitar with raindrops of piano over terrifying drums.
The contrast between the first three pieces and the rest of the album is striking. It almost feels like two different collections. What unites the two parts is the impeccable production and the elegant fluidity. The album is another exercise in sculpting ambient-industrial music over a bed of thundering beats while scouring the landscapes of dubstep, drum'n'bass and trip-hop.

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(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
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