Terminal Sound System: Dust Songs
Dust Songs testifies that, even at the twelve-album stage of its existence, Skye Klein's audacious Terminal Sound System project continues to undergo metamorphosis. Last year's A Sun Spinning Backwards (Denovali Records) witnessed the Australian alchemist displacing the Terminal Sound System sound even further from its drum'n'bass-related origins for a polyglot style drawing upon industrial, shoegaze, electronica, post-rock, and dubstep in a way that invited comparison to early Third Eye Foundation releases like Ghost and You Guys Kill Me.
Dust Songs now presents the next stage in Terminal Sound System's evolution. One possible characterization of the project would describe the album as a cross between Third Eye Foundation's seething doom-metal and an acoustic-heavy Pink Floyd (circa Animals and The Wall). The latter component asserts itself in particular in Klein's vocal delivery, which in places (e.g., “Silver Minds”) sounds so much like Roger Waters' that the song in question could be mistaken for an unreleased Pink Floyd demo. Anything but prog or drum'n'bass per se, Dust Songs makes good on its title in featuring a number of cryptic, late-night ballads. Synthesizers and electronics are featured but so too are vocals and acoustic guitars, making for an arresting change-up in the Terminal Sound System sound.
After a minute-long scene-setter of noise textures and acoustic strums (“Deep Black Static”), Dust Songs gets down to business with “By the Meadow,” the first of many dark, mantra-like vocal settings. While not indecipherable, Klein's words are hard to make out when they're shrouded in haze and shadowed by surges of swollen synthesizer textures, but one quickly surmises that what he's saying is less critical than the overall effect created by the disease-laden song. “Silver Minds” warrants the Pink Floyd comparison not only for its ominous electro-acoustic sonic design but for unsettling lyrics that call to mind “Welcome to the Machine” (“Lie back / Close your eyes and sleep / The machines will hold you now...”). A dusty quality also surfaces in the desert twang of electric guitar shadings during “Keepers,” while Klein's noise and doom-metal inclinations emerge during the punishing instrumental passages within “Shadows” and “Morning Star.” In keeping with Klein's seemingly restless nature, the album never sits in one place for long, and multiple scene-changes occur within a single track. Offsetting the acoustic dimension of the project are numerous subtle production treatments, and a sense of threat and psychic disturbance repeatedly darkens Dust Songs' door, leaving the listener in a state of unease for much of the forty-eight-minute set.