Terminal Sound System: Constructing Towers

Heady in the best sense of the word, Constructing Towers is the next chapter in Skye Klein's audacious Terminal Sound System project. Like Squarepusher, Klein (a Melbourne, Australia-based musician who's also one-half of HALO) combines virtuosic skill with a bravura sensibility that shows little patience with or interest in repeating familiar formulas. Throughout the album's ten tracks, a cyclone of rampaging drums and marauding bass swarm is unleashed, resulting in a tumultuous strain of beat-based electronica where venomous traces of jungle, shoegaze, dubstep, and drum'n'bass rise to the forefront of the rhythmic stampede.

Cloaked in brooding, almost nightmarish ambiance, the vertiginous broil of “In Your Planet” showcases Klein's jazz-inflected drumming chops. A viral mix of vibes, piano, whispered voices, and fulminating beats moves the title track forward at a breakneck pace, while the equally frenetic “Year of the Pig” constantly threatens to spin out of control yet somehow manages to remain upright. The blend of wah-wah funk guitar, dubstep wobble, and jazz-fusion beat patterning that emerges during the song's second half is a combination unlike anything else heard in recent memory.

The pace starts to slow midway through beginning with some darkly atmospheric moodscaping (“Wolves,” “Sunshine”) and continuing on into the mutant electronic jazz of “Firefly Broth” and “Duchamp Falls,” a creepy Badalamenti-styled lounge cut replete with a walking bass line, drum brushes, vibes, and tenor sax. The tremolo-laden “Theme For Broken Home” perpetuates the plunge into slow-motion atmospherics before “Zodiac” takes us out with a elegantly modulated stab at uplifting shoegaze. It doesn't all come off quite so splendidly—“Alaska,” for example, opts for a doom-laden mix of electronic rock and shoegaze that's less captivating than the other tracks, and Klein's follow-up to 2007's Compressor impresses most when it's in blistering beatsmithing mode—but Constructing Towers generally speaks strongly in favour of its creator's talents. Given the singularity of his vision and the uncompromising determination with which it's implemented, it's frankly puzzling that Terminal Sound System isn't a better-known quantity.

December 2008