DJ & Music Writer from the UK

40 Albums – 40 Days

Day 21 – The Nine – Dreamland

The Nine - Dreamland (Cover)

A old favourite from Flag Promotions line-ups in the early 00s, and one of the least accurately named bands ever, having started out as duo. ‘The Nine’ only became slightly less fallacious a name when they added a guitarist. But that was the only thing they got wrong. I really looked forward to their sets, with their pixel-perfect, ultra-catchy take on synthpop never failing to satisfy on stage. I’d picked up their first album, but half the songs I’d come to like weren’t on it. “My Fallacy” was acquired on a Cryonica compilation (thanks Reza!) but I was longing to hear the rest in the comfort of my home (or discomfort of the London Tube via CD walkman).

Such was my keenness, I picked the album up before Resurrection had even put in their racks – and I wasn’t disappointed. Everything that was good about the first album was still much in evidence, but the added guitars and improved production gave their sound a robust nature few of their contemporaries could better. The opening title track might have been straight from the “Never Let Me Down” school of new wave pop given the rocked-up treatment, but it wasn’t a direct copy – just the next step.

Tracks like “Rage” showed they could reach Pretty Hate Machine style intensity without losing their tuneful side, whilst “Control” and “Poison” was proof of their dynamic range – a uptempo blast or synthy power ballad, they had it covered. But my all-time favourite – “Transmission”. Not a Joy Division cover (they had more integrity than that), just one of the catchiest choruses I’ve ever encountered in any genre, ever.

The Nine didn’t stick around long after – frontman Geoff Pinckney disappeared into his studio for a few years working under the Alien#Six13 moniker. But he couldn’t keep a concept this good down for long – the story continued in 2007 under the name ‘Tenek’.

Day 22 – Leftfield – Leftism

Leftfield - Leftism (Cover)

I’ve never cared for how this album got written up by the dance music community. due to it’s association with this thing called ‘progressive house’, a genre of dance so associated with the elitism of the mainstream DJ community that I want nothing to do with it. Because I don’t have time for any form of music that requires a DJ to make it sound interesting. And this album does just fine without any elaborate mixology.

Also, I’ve already touched upon the idea of dance-music-bringing-in-rock-musicians as guests – it’s a valid concept, but one that eventually got overused as a too-obvious method of convincing fans of both artists to buy it. It isn’t as easy as it sounds to combine two genres and claim ‘creativity’ – bringing the best out of both component styles requires some skill, it’s not enough to drop a production gimmick into the mix or throw together two unrelated rhythmic styles. But here’s an example of stylistic hybrid done right.

First, the Barnes/Daley pairing at the core of the original line-up are capable of great things on their own – I’ve always had a thing for the trippy “Melt”, for instance. But when the guests come in, things really come alive. The colab with reggae singer Earl Sixteen is a near-perfect amalgam of the two parent styles, working both the vocals and a distinctive skank into the tunes electronic core. “Afro-Left” pulls off the same trick with afro-beat, and guest vocals from Bulgarian singer Yanka Rupkina (“Song of Life”) and Toni Halliday from Curve (“Original”) keep things interesting as we move through the middle part of the album,

But you know what I’m leading up to, right? “Open Up”. John Lydon, who at the time was experiencing a relative low in terms of musical profile, contributed one of the most committed vocal performances of his career, so much so that he even worked the tune into the set of the reformed Public Image Ltd many years later. It was one of the key crossover anthems, the kind of track that would sit just as easily in a Terminates Here set as it would in a corporate mega-club. Though my three attempts at doing the karaoke version have (thankfully) gone unrecorded.

Day 23 – Angelo Badalamenti – Soundtrack From Twin Peaks

Angelo Badalamenti - Sountrack from Twin Peaks (Cover)

30 years ago today, a TV series hit the screens of America for the first time (I didn’t see it until much later but let’s not ruin the story). Maybe some heard that idyllic theme music and briefly wondered if it was another harmless small-town soap opera. Then came ‘Directed By David Lynch’ and you knew it wouldn’t be that simple. A few minutes in, Pete Martell’s gone fishin’, to the sound of ominous keyboard tones that suggests something is amiss. Sure enough – “She’s dead – Wrapped In Plastic”.

When Sheriff Truman and Doc Hayward arrive to reveal the cold blue face of Laura Palmer, the soundtracks crescendos for the first of many times, and through all the episodes, you never tire of hearing it do so over and over. But this was no ordinary murder mystery – the cool jazz of “Audreys Dance”, “Freshly Squeezed” and “Dance Of The Dream Man” accompanied several other scenes, showing a different face of this small American town full of quirky characters, mysterious happenings and the increasingly apparent presence of supernatural forces.

There are three songs amongst the instrumental, the vocals on which were provided by Julee Cruise, who’s dream-pop tones perfectly suited a night at the Road House. But the whole soundtrack was just fitted the tone of the series perfectly – sometimes beautiful, sometimes mysterious, sometimes haunting. David Lynch is a man renowned for complexity, but he is certainly loyal to those who ‘get’ where he’s coming from, and his sound track composer of choice, Angelo Badalamenti, is one such individual.

Day 24 – The Sisters of Mercy – Floodland

An obvious one today. Actually it isn’t. If you’ve perused Terminates Here setlists, you’ll find the majority of Sisters tunes I’ve played came from the albums either side of this, their more compact nature suiting my tightly-packed sets. Also, on the three occasions I’ve seen this band live, tracks from this album never stood out as a highlight (if there were any at all). But as an album to actually sit down and listen to, this has always been my choice.

Indeed, it seems that this album was never intended with live performance in mind – there was no associated tour (unthinkable for a band than now only exists on stage). Instead Andrew Eldritch and late 80s member Patricia Morrison put out a quartet of promo videos (a must-see in their own right). It did the trick – the LP still charted. The album is notable for it’s drawn-out compositions, the then-novel concept of recording the whole thing with a computer and of course, that big mid-80s drum sound, Doktor Avalanche obviously having seen some kind of update since the ‘first’ era of the band.

Talking of which, the centrepiece track “This Corrosion”, with it’s choirs, metallic bassline and never-ending reprises, turned out to be an 11-minute middle-finger aimed in Wayne Hussey’s direction. “Dominion”, despite the desert setting of the video, turns out of be a statement about Chernobyl and the Cold War. “Lucretia My Reflection” is the most conventional of the singles, but if you’ve been to the same clubs I have, you’ve probably danced to all three, several times.

The remainder of the album is more low-key, but it never fails on an atmospheric level, and the ex-girlfriend slight of “Drive Like The Snow” still gave us that T-shirt worthy slogan “Fuck Me And Marry Me Young”. Though fans would still have to wait until re-issue time before being able to zone out to the full-length version of “Never Land” (which is a minute longer than “This Corrosion”). Sure, the length compositions might have been a case of Eldritch stretching out relatively few new ideas, but the ideas he did have were good ones, and he made the best use of them here.

Day 25 – Cabaret Voltaire – The Crackdown

Cabaret Voltaire - The Crackdown (Cover)

There are many Cabaret Voltaire albums, a number worth writing about in terms of the music, but this is the only one where I can spin a personal tale. Because it actually made one of the least memorable parts of my life, well, memorable. It was the end of my 1st year at Imperial, exams done and probably passed, accommodation sorted for next year, but no social life with which to celebrate. I didn’t want to go to the summer ball to spend £50 plus drinks and suit hire to be blanked by the in-crowd again, so on the day of the event, I walked across Hyde Park on a “nothing better to do” basis.

I ended up at Oxford Circus HMV (remember that?) and with a few quid left in the bank thanks to a dead final term on a partying level, decided to try out another one of these ‘industrial’ bands I’d read about on that useful interweb thingy I’d only recently gotten access to. Cabaret Voltaire was an name that stuck in the mind, and I plumped for this one, mainly because it was the cheapest CD they had (thank you Virgin mid-price range).

I admit I wasn’t an instant convert, but I soon got drawn in by the funkier take on edgy electronics, an valid variant on the straight-ahead synth fuzz I was otherwise listening to via bands with Front in their name. Whilst I later established “Just Fascination” was the lead single (and the only Cabs song I’ve ever had a DJ request for), I was always drawn to “Why Kill Time (When You Can Kill Yourself)”, not a title in exceptionally good tastes, but a surprisingly catchy refrain nonetheless. The disembodied horns and irregular keyboard flourishes of “Haiti” were also quite unlike anything I’d previously heard.

It was also some time later that I established the last 4 tracks on the CD were a bonus 12″ on the original vinyl version – but for me they’re an essential part of the album. “Diskono” is one of the most energising tracks on the whole collection, and “Double Vision” has a more personal resonance. The morning after said Summer ball, I gave this album it’s second airing, looking out of the hall of residence window over the brutalist architecture of Princes Gardens, with that semi-despondent feeling that whilst next year was set up, I had three months of boredom ahead of me first.

Those ever-repeating synth chords, the feeling of emptiness, the stark nature of my surroundings, which could not have been totally unlike the mid-80s Sheffield from which the Cabs inspiration was drawn. That was my Double Vision. And thanks to this album, even this otherwise pointless period of my life had a soundtrack.

Day 26 – Future Sound Of London – Dead Cities

Future Sound Of London - Dead Cities (Cover)

Dystopia wasn’t a big thing in the mid-1990s. Between the end of the Cold War and the advent of 9/11, it was all media-savvy centrist governments, post-recession economic boom and a prevailing feel-good factor – the general public was largely unaware of the problems the world was saving up for itself. Which makes this album from 1996 an oddity, but one well worth digging up when so many of us around the world are finally discovering what it’s really like to live in ‘Dead Cities’. The prophecised future came, it came to London, and this is its sound.

Whilst the albums apocalyptic tone was distinct for the time, there was something of a zeitgeist being captured in terms of delivering ‘dance music you couldn’t actually dance to’. The term electronica was knocked around by music critics of the time, but as that term meant everything and nothing simultaneously, lets just say the album defies classification, tracks switching tone mid-way through or combining sounds that should never have worked together but do, the screwed-up tracklisting not helping anyone understand what was going on or when.

Actually, there is ONE track that works on a dancefloor – “We Have Explosive” is an ultra-abrasive blast with a fuck-you attitude, the kind of thing I remember from the Slimelight Industek floor back the days I used to venture up there. The remainder of the album combined the dance sensibilities of FSOL’s early work with the atmospheric style they developed for their ‘Lifeforms’ album, with disembodied choirs, dark synth texture and all manner of beat styles creating a listening experience that’s unnerving both in tone and in it’s unpredictability.

The album ends with the short, doomy march “First Death In The Family”/ Despite being of portent of the exceptionally morbid styles of music I’d eventually discover, it’s also a track forever associated with one of the darkest points in my life, the very bottom of a collapse which I was only able to climb out of due to a deep-rooted change in mentality who’s price I still feel today. Get me drunk enough and I might tell the story – for now, just listen to the music.

Day 27 – Covenant – Theremin EP

Covenant - Theremin EP (Cover)

For the second time in the series, I cover an EP rather than a full album – indeed in this case I’ve chosen a US-only release. Covenant are another band where I could have picked one of many albums to cover – the production intricacies of ‘Sequencer’, the instant-appeal factor of ‘United States of Mind’ or the peak-futurepop keynote ‘Northern Lite’. But I really wanted to get to the root about what makes this band special to me. And this collection of songs has more of those elements than any of the full-lengths.

The title track might make reference to Leon Theremin, but only the title – the song itself makes no reference to the man or his instrument, but it’s still a critical reference to the early sound of Covenant in terms building recognisable songs out of electronic noise. The other first album reference is “Void”, an obvious tribute to their Front 242 influences, but a still a must-hear, given it was inexcusably missed off the US version of ‘Dreams of a Cryotank’.

But there are two alternate versions of key tracks here. “Speed” was disappointingly static on the original album, but the “Club Mix” offered here completely re-energises the piece, bringing an urgent tension and increasingly dramatic choruses as the song progresses. There’s also “Figurehead (Plain)”. If the album version was an epic, stretching off as an eight-minute technical marvel, this one is an anthem, stripping down the complexity and letting Eskil’s vocals absolutely fly.

It’s a song that means a lot to me on a personal level, probably due to an inner need to serve some kind of purpose in the world. It’s featured at many of my most important DJ sets over the years, and unless I’m undertaking elaborate mixology, this is the version I’ll be playing. The one thing I don’t get enough chance to do it dance to it when I’m otherwise off-duty, so please fellow DJs, when we’re back in the real clubs on the other side of this crisis, do me a favour and give this one more play…..

Day 28 – Imminent Starvation – Nord

Imminent Starvation - Nord (Cover)

There a bit of a misconception that I’ve got something against the ‘noisy bands’ that play at Infest and sometimes ‘upstairs at Slimelight’ (they seldom play elsewhere in the UK). But it’s not true – admittedly I’m pickier than I am with my core styles like EBM and synthpop, but when it’s done the way I like it, I’m up for it as much as anything else. Indeed, one of the great pains of DJ Terminates Here’s existence is that I seldom get to play music this extreme in my own sets – it’s one of the few things I like that just won’t work at Alt Bring’n’Buy sales, Aces and Eights and my other mixed-genre sets. Not that I haven’t tried to sneak it in once in a while anyway….

Rewind to 2001 – I’d worked out Ant-Zen was the go-to label for this kind of thing, bought one album by the five artists that got mentioned the most in those elitist industrial forums I used to sign up to, and this was the album that won me over – the last work of Belgian Oliver Moreau before he smashed up his mixing desk and re-titled the project to just ‘Imminent’. Power noise doesn’t have many anthems as such, but track 2 here – “Tentack One” comes as close as any, eight minutes of distorto-kick over which layer upon layer of noise loop are added. Every time I picked up an noisebeat album from this point, my first point of interest was to locate it’s Tentack One-equivalent and worry about the “clever bits” later.

Either side of it are “Nor”, which eschews percussion entirely in favour of looped klaxons take to extremes, and “Lost Highway (Exit)”, a updated version of an earlier track made definitive here. It sets up the album for it’s more experimental later stages, different rhythmic patterns accompanied by icy synths and stark atmospheres all the way, peaking again with the 10 minutes epic “Ire”, which packs in almost everything about this project that’s worth listening to.

Truth is, this style of music could only achieve so much before it had to develop, and by the mid-00s it had become more focused on mutated forms of drum’n’bass, IDM and breakcore, valid artistic directions for sure, but too far from my own resonant frequency to keep me dancing. By the time I saw Oliver play an Imminent set on stage (Slimelight in 2006), he’d gone down this path himself, and chucking in a verbatim copy of “Tentack One” as an encore felt too much like an obligation.

Day 29 – The Prodigy – Music For The Jilted Generation

The Prodigy - Music For The Jilted Generation (Cover)

The second Prodigy album is something of a coming-of-age experience for the project, as it’s the point where they graduated from the rave scene and found their place in the wider world. Unusually, they did so by making things harder and darker. It’s still for the most part the high-speed breakbeat techno surge which brought them to fame, but this time there’s an agenda. Or at least there seems to be. Liam denies the album ever served a political purpose, but given the advent of the Criminal Justice Bill around the time of release and the effect that had on the party scene, it’s hard not to make the connection anyway.

I mean, when you get anti-somethingorother grebo protest band Pop Will Eat Itself on board for a massive “FUCK ‘EM – AND THEIR LAW”, you’ve made a statement whether you intended to or not. And given that I’ve seen both PWEI and The Prodigy perform this live, highlight of the set both times, and it’s obvious it still really means something. Add the wild breakbeat-guitar combination of “Voodoo People” (a favourite night-closer at Full Tilt way-back-then) and you’ve already won the rock and crossover audience, so who need the ravers?

Sure, they can still manage a decent pop hook when they need it – or at least sample one from somewhere else. “No Good (Start The Dance)” makes a Kelly Charles sample several times more famous than it was on the house twelves inch from which it was sampled. But Liam also realised he had band members of his own he could use. Flinty’s first appearance behind the mic is still a few years off, but live MC Maxim finds his voice on record on “Poison”.

But the album is also interesting away from the big hits, particularly on the final three tracks known as ‘The Narcotic Suite’ – especially “3 Kilos”, where Liam finally slows things down, finds a groove more reminiscent of a smoke-filled basement than a dance area, and that flute solo was the masterstroke that finally proved to the world that there was more to the Prodigy than just a dance band.

Day 30 – Metallica – Metallica (The Black Album)

The entry point to Metallica for me and countless others. Sure, their ultimate statement on the subject of metal might have been made on the three albums prior to this, but this is the point where they graduated from the ‘Big Four of Thrash’ and entered the music mainstream. So much so that they headline corporate mega-festivals and the chance of me ever seeing them play live has diminished to the point where I’ve decided it’s easier just to rip up that ‘Bands to see’ list than sell my soul (and probably some other stuff as well) to lay my hands on a ticket when the chance arises.

As for the album – they might have slowed down their sound, they might have simplified it in places, but with Bob Rock’s huge-sounding production, the dynamic swings in their revised style were pushed to the forefront, and when looking back on the history of the band, all but the most zealous of 80s metal puritans would regard this recording as much Metallica as their high-speed technical masterworks.

“Enter Sandman” is the opening track, a tale of childhood nightmares a good a statement as any in terms of the style of the album as a whole, but it’s also song that has transcended the confines of ‘metal’ and become something of a universally-loved standard. At least twice in the history of Terminates Here, I stuck this in a set when I was meant to be playing something electronic and it still filled the floor.

“Wherever I May Roam” portrays the the expansive life of an eternal wanderer in riff form, “Don’t Tread on Me” is a (American) revolutionary use of a compound-time groove that became very important in the sound of metal for the next decade, and I’ve always had a thing for the werewolf tale “Of Wolf And Man”. There’s the occasional wave toward their thrashy past on “Holier Than Thou” and “Through The Never”, but such things are in a minority here.

And then there’s the ballads. “Nothing Else Matters” is another tune that’s escaped it’s genre origins and been proved to work covered in all manner of styles, but for me, “The Unforgiven” is the song from this album that had the biggest effect on me. When I first heard it, it was an accurate statement of the direction my life was heading at that point, and having more than doubled in age since, I still feel it’s an accurate summation of the me writing this text now.

Onto Albums 31 to 40….

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