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Terminal Sound System - RH-8SB

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Artist: Terminal Sound System

Album: RH-8SB

Label: Release Entertainment

Review date: Aug. 22, 2002

Deep Chasms of Sound

RH-8SBwas apparently originally released by Embryo Recordings in Australia, although the information available is rather scant. The anonymous "STK" who is credited for the music has released at least one previous album which I haven't heard. On this one, Terminal Sound System explore deep chasms of glitchy rhythmic sounds – what you might imagine of machines indulging in dub explorations: cold, glassy expanses of computer-manipulated/created sound, set atop sharp percussive crackles and bass thuds. Anyone with an interest in slow, science-fiction apocalypse soundtracks should take a listen.

Terminal Sound System's sonic palette is relatively small, but STK makes the most of it, resulting in the tracks sharing a common atmosphere without seeming identical. The overall consistency will either be a positive or a negative depending on your taste – and potentially depending on your mood at the time.

Tracks like "Silt," "Stat," and "Ash" all rely on dub-inspired rhythms constructed from naked, metallic percussion, floating synths, and often a low, punchy bass drum for emphasis. Despite occasional moments of rapid rhythms and stuttering percussion, the overall feel remains very down-tempo. This is night-time listening, make no doubt about it. The sounds are consistently interesting, as the 'snare' on some tracks is actually digital hiss and static built up, while other percussive sounds may be metallic pings or digitally-created noises artfully thrown into the mix.

One of the best tracks here is "Whine," which starts out very, very mellow so when the super-strong crack of the snare comes in, with rumbling bass, it's effectively shocking. The slow, dubby rhythm is quite appealing. "Trmnl," on the other hand, is a strange, minimal soundscape with a dull bell-like toll repeating while mysterious clattering sounds and ominous synths overlay the background. Perhaps the other strongest piece is "Pulse," which in some ways lives up to its name by alternating moments of near-silence with passages of strong beats. With occasional dub-style delays on the snare hits, and a heavy bass drum sound that combines a kick drum with static clicks, this is a really good track.

"Ghost" demonstrates one of the weaknesses here, which is the tendency for the songs to meander and continue a bit longer than I might like. This is simply because the changes that occur are so subtle: a rhythmic variation, or an alternation in the sounds used on a certain beat, for example. In the case of "Ghost," a sort of a glitch-rhythm soundtrack piece with dramatic synth tones, elements of the rhythm come and go to keep some movement happening within the composition. Depending on your threshold for rhythmic repetition and minimal atmospherics, you may or may not find yourself wishing for more variation. It is somewhat in the nature of this music to be repetitive, which lends itself to hovering in the background, if not always quite standing up to closer scrutiny.

For the most part, though, the music here supports the occasional self-indulgence (including the willfully obscure album title and mysterious presentation), and rewards the listener with barren, frosty soundscapes well-suited for your next post-apocalyptic barbecue.

By Mason Jones

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