Terminal Sound System makes music for a post apocalyptic darkness. It’s a muscular almost dangerous electronic sound, the bottom end literally erupts, jagging from out from nowhere, startling you, then there’s these electronics which at times sound like human screeches, and the sweeping oscillations of synth that feel like searchlights in some kind of futuristic detention centre. There’s a certain grim bleakness at play here and elements of it pervade the entire album. Every track feels loaded with significance, with warnings. Or at least that’s how you feel initially.
At times it’s positively cinematic, like he’s nabbed the sound design from an Alien film. It also feels like a throwback to the late 90’s drum and bass of early Squarepusher and the like, back when the form seemed to hold so much promise. Terminal Sound System does to some extent follow aspects of the formula, with the brooding atmospheres and programmed beats, though he does distance himself by offering a mix of real percussion, some of which is well, kind’ve swinging.
By the third track Year of the Pig he offers in some light, and it’s more than welcome. Is that wah guitar? It takes on almost jazz connotations, then with the next Alaska, the guitar is out again, this time more anthemic, more fuzzed up, pushed up above the brooding bleakness to almost transcendental dark ambient levels. This is a beautiful highly accomplished music, fragments of genres are plundered and integrated seamlessly into his incredible brew. Alaska is a monster.
As you listen to the album, you not only realise that Terminal Sound System has taken advantage of all possible opportunities to let light into Constructing Towers, but also that it isn’t as dark and demanding as the first couple of tracks lead you to believe. As the album unfolds you come to understand that Terminal Sound System loves space, loves near silence and more particularly loves working with and against expectation. In the later parts his jazz influences seem to become more and more overt. Duchamp Falls seems to come from the Twin Peaks song book, and much of the second half of the album takes on a broken down late night jazz ambience, melodic and emotional with electronics drifting in and out lethargically. It’s his second long player for Extreme and this kind of diversity whilst maintaining the emotion, mood and complexity is stunning, if not just a little overwhelming.