Terrorball - Art Of Darkness LP (2015)
Reviewed by Andrew James Bramwell
Terrorball dodged a bullet: Leading off tracks with vocal samples is risky, it's been so over-done in the last 30 years by artists trying to intellectualise and appear deeper. By picking pretty mundane monologues or deep drivelling dialogues, cleverly allows the listener to feel smarter. Even pop trends of bare melodic brainwashing have been avoided by having the melody nestled tightly within the progression of funky derivations. That culturally pervasive over-stated chord stab thingy is present from time to time, but Terrorball has to penetrate society's mass distraction and overpower the bleating noise of self-absorbed sheep. Non-sheep are also catered for in the clean approach to disco. This has deftly avoided falling into the enormous vat of festering disco house cheese. This Disco is sans the overbearing latin percussion, thankfully lacks heavy ducking or nasty rhythmic gating and has restrained and intelligent use of other mix effects.
The album starts with frequency filtered introspective spoken word over drone, answered by a wailing synthline, quite unexpectedly lets go into disco beats. The contrast is clever and the precise timing between the first two tracks lets the listener decide if it's actually a long intro or not. Carbon-dating of this work can be attempted by broad influences: Acid laden Electro Disco, cherry-picked from the decades from the likes of the Dazz Band, Man Parrish and Bassment Jaxx. Hiphop-derived heavy-bass, tweaker's bitcrush and a generous framework of Funky House, which can put it anywhere in the last decade. Euro-trance stabs of the last track bring the timeline to post 2010, it manages to be current, while not ashamed to extract goodness from the thrashed recent past.
Every track sounds great with space between instruments with each element staying nicely in it's own tight little area. The more staccato moments are largely held together on a bed of subtle pads and overarching sweeps and stabs. The pads have been left alone to do their thing without any of the over-compressed harassment posing as music in early 00s Disco House. The mix has the bonding strength of classics like late 70s funksters Main Ingredient, the attack Late 80s electrofunk and the punch of slower hard house from the mid 00s. Tight, big in all the right places and funky. Darker than Erasure's Vince Clarke, brighter than the Chemical Brothers and refreshingly unpredictable in overall emotional tone from track to track. That emotion tone is pushed back, staying classy, not wanting to intrude, yet still detectable to the worst case of empathy paralysis.
Terrorball is the prolifically self-published solo project of Gareth Pemberton. He has made something you can dance to without feeling like a dork. You can listen to this at nana's place on Xmas afternoon and play for a cooling brain-sluice after a night clubbing. It seems honest, like he is letting you see something of who he is. But it is not completely naked, not yet. Gareth may have work to do in either letting the themes cut deeper and taking a soul turn in the house of funk. Or, he can scratch all the unsalted disco itches and be even more shameless about it. His production is technically mature, his influences still open enough to allow ambiguity, whatever he does, we will be dancing.
About the artist: Hamilton's Gareth Pemberton is not shy about sharing mid 80s disco on public-facing social media. Keep scrolling through his FB and it gets complicated and very revealing to the depth of this artist's variety of taste. Don't make my mistake of stalking him 1st. Instead, listen to the album, then decide. If you still can't decide, listen to the Terrorball's ten other releases on Bandcamp.
Self-described as: Earth's penultimate sonic ensemble of one.
Self-defined as: lo-fi electronic noise disco electro
Admitted to be influenced by: Capsule, Perfume, Justice, Daft Punk
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