You are here

Terminalhead: Underfire Volume 1

AUDIO CD Rating: ** 2/5 Stars

Never buy a used car from a friend, goes the perceived wisdom. Well, I did, and it has served me well. But what do you do when your house sound engineer and producer comes up with a product of his own and requests a release? How can you turn him down?

Lee Groves has appeared on the credits of many AMG sample CDs, including (most pertinently to this product) a co‑production with Keith Le Blanc on Kickin' Lunatic Beats. Now he has persuaded Matt at AMG to take a chance with his own band, a post‑Tackhead hard‑as‑nails live‑plus‑technology outfit who have yet to prove themselves. Terminalhead, Tackhead... even the names are ringers — just how deep does this influence go?

Volume 1 opens with a demo — well, more of an album track really. A 303‑esque bass line playing busy sixteenths sets the tone for some pretty decent hip‑hop beats played live and probably then sampled. Overlays of junglist and techno ornamentation and fills help build the beat. After a decent interval come space chords which provide light relief from the busy and incessant rhythm. Then more bass and drums, more chords, more bass and drums — this tune is beginning to run out of ideas.

Tracks 2‑10 contain live drumming samples by 'Pete'. Hip‑hop, lively, sometimes distorted, mono, often with heavy use of EQ sweep. Put bluntly, the playing is fine, but it's not magical, and it's not Keith Le Blanc.

From track 11 onwards we are first regaled with rhythmically gated sounds including, but not limited to, found dialogue and music, guitar chops, short‑wave radio, vocals and synth. Rhythmic gating is such an old‑hat effect that it's easy to overlook when you're twiddling about with the latest morphing and modelling synths. However, this is one basic dance trick you should never forget.

The Synth Riff section includes crunch and power, rhythm and effect, and atmosphere, but never much in the way of melody, making for pretty useable samples. Greg's compact guitar section comprises distorted funky rhythms, chops and fills. Quite noisy, tons of energy, heavy on the wah‑wah, and probably good value in the right tune.

The Dub section left me cold. I'm afraid the application of echo is not the only element in a genre that is as elusive as it is exquisite. Stick to what you know, boys.

The Pascal Banadjaoud percussion sections include studio‑mashed patterns as well as straight bongos (dry as well as horribly wet), and darbuka (again, EQ‑swept, with gated reverb, and dubbed up and straight) — for the uninitiated, a darbuka sounds like someone playing timbales with their hands. Swept and straight shakers and tambourine, half‑speed stuff, clean bongos, more congas and darbuka complete this section. Next up comes a short‑wave section with radio interference, coded signals and barely audible foreign stations. Then there are more synth and guitar effects, before the CD plays out with analogue pads and sweeps.

It's not fair to dismiss Terminalhead as a Tackhead clone, but with a name like that, and wearing their influence so heavily on their sleeve, it's tempting. Sample‑wise, the drums were, for me, the least impressive part of this CD, and I wasn't too impressed with the dub element either. However, the guitars, non‑dub effects (especially gates), some of the percussion, and the short‑wave stuff were all creditable. In fact, marry these sections with the drumming of Keith Le Blanc from another AMG title and you might have something. Incidentally, Volume 2 is also available, and its format is like Volume 1's, with drums, effects, guitars, radio section and so on. I haven't heard it, but expect more of the same. Wilf Smarties

£59.95 including VAT.

Star Lollies

5 Stars FEAST

4 Stars FAB

3 Stars ZOOM