Terminal Sound System: A Sun Spinning Backwards
Denovali Records

Terminal Sound System is if not a unique outfit then at the very least something close to it. It's not so much that nothing like it has existed before, but more that Skye Klein has found a way to draw upon multiple genres and meld them into something highly individualized. On the eleventh Terminal Sound System full-length album and follow-up to 2011's Heavy Weather, one hears traces of drum'n'bass buried deep within the music's DNA but also industrial, shoegaze, electronica, post-rock, and dubstep. The closest analogue that comes to mind for the studio-based project, which has been releasing music since 1999, might be Third Eye Foundation in its early days (the late-‘90s releases Ghost and You Guys Kill Me, for example).

The album's quasi-foreboding tone is set by “Deep Black Ash,” a shuddering doom overture of rust-encrusted guitar playing, but, being beatless, it doesn't capture the Terminal Sound System as thoroughly as does the second piece, “Oceans,” which undergirds its gothic pianos and phantom vocals with pummeling waves of percussive fury. In a typical Terminal Sound System track, Klein uses a relentless attack of snares and kick drums to propel the material forward at breakneck speed. With the bottom end well-accounted for, he then uses strings, pianos, and electronics to generate epic force-fields that arc dramatically overtop. The album's aura of apocalyptic doom is evident in the grooves but also track titles, as attested to by titles such as “Theme for Scorched Earth” and “Suns We've Killed.” In that regard, the album's title and cover image are fitting choices.

Klein's vocodered voice and tremolo guitars add to the epic reach of “Silver Ships,” and the white-hot guitar buildup with which the track climaxes even nudges the project's sound into shoegaze territory. Also stirring things up, a subtle hint of dubstep surfaces in the bass wobble that helps ground the anthemic reach of “Suns We've Killed,” while “Theme for Scorched Earth” offers a mournful, string-drenched ode to a dying planet and “What Will Come” takes the album out with seven explosive minutes of guitar-fueled mayhem.

It bears worth mentioning that Terminal Sound System's connection to drum'n'bass isn't so much rooted in the beat patterns associated with the genre so much as its characteristic sense of urgency and propulsion. That's clearly heard during “Clearlight,” an oft-rampaging set-piece whose piano and synthetic elements are accompanied by light-speed snare and tom-tom patterns. Klein's command of the material and its execution is apparent throughout, but never more so than in the way he abruptly arrests a track's momentum before having it leap back into action moments later. Fourteen years after its first release, Klein's project sounds like it's got lots left in the tank, so to speak, given the high-energy level evident throughout A Sun Spinning Backwards.

May 2013