was a time when I would have said that spawning a horde of imitators was
a sure mark of genuine innovation and lasting seminal influence. These
days I'm less callow, and more likely to grudgingly admit that the hordes
of bands who sound like VNV
Nation, for example, are living proof that shit breeds shit. But there
are still a few acts out there whose waves of impersonators really do
testify to the impact of their original artistic vision, and Autechre
are one of them. Happily, Autechre imitators are a lot more musically
than VNV wannabes - I guess it's a prerequisite - so my reaction to Terminal
Sound System was not entirely one of dismay.
Actually it would be a little unfair to dismiss TSS as complete copycats,
they're not, but I think it would be fair to say that without "Incunabula"
and "Chiastic Slide" this album would never have come to be.
And there's just something a touch derivative about the whole thing. I
swore that I'd heard it before when the melody came in on 'When
We Are Robots There Will Be Peace', but it was just some kind of
disconcerting aural déjàvu; but the three dreamlike chords
in '(Study Of) Decay Of Elements' really do sound remarkably
like the Aphex Twin's
NIN remix 'At The
Heart Of It All'.
One thing this album certainly has going for it is production quality,
which is outstanding. It begs to be played loud on an expensive stereo
in a large, quiet room. The beats and bleeps are painted onto the psychoacoustic
canvas with a precision and delicacy that brings out their occasional
baroque flamboyance. The percussion is intricate yet generally uncluttered,
although it does get a little too chaotic for its own good on '(!)=x',
losing sight of the groove in pursuit of unpredictability. For the most
part it's subtle to the point of minimalism, to such a degree that you
start to forget it's there, particularly during the unusually long intervals
of silence or near-silence between some of the tracks.
I wish I liked this album better than I do. I wish there wasn't so much
post-Warp music coming out at the moment for it to compete with. I wish
I could say Terminal Sound System were the best thing to come out of Australia
since Black Lung. But having said all that, I hope you won't be left with
an entirely negative opinion of "Last Night I Dreamed Of Armageddon",
because it is a good job damn well done; it just isn't as striking as
it deserves to be now that this level of competence has become the entry-level
standard in electronica. Still, at least it doesn't sound like VNV Nation.