Terbo Ted Is Dead
But you sure can change with the times. On his sixth self-published cd, shapeshifter Terbo Ted once again fearlessly spins the chameleon wheel. Right away die hards will be grumbling- the godfather of speedbass has dropped the tempo and resorted to relatively traditional trappings- there are no hardcore techno blitzkreig masterpieces like "Thrashifier" in this collection. For the first time, Ted has presented us with a set of mostly vocal-based pop songs, an about face from his 1998 album "Spamming" which was entirely made of disembodied samples and cascading suites of instrumental breakbeat cacophony.
The same way Beck's mopey "Sea Change" listlessly followed an earlier, energy-drenched and vibrant catalog, Terbo has slid back into strangely familiar and dull terrain; in this case: 80's synth pop and retro electro-house stylings. The album starts with a series of cold and sterile songs that yearn for a bold, bluesy over-the-top cathartic vocal release- somewhere Terbo might indeed go in one of his live bands. One can only scratch their head as he uninspiredly utters the lyric 'I feel ya' over and over again at the close of the opening number. By the time he lamely ramps up into any hint of audible emotion with his voice in the industrially 'Ow' or grungy acid-rock-leaning 'Glorious,' the listener has been subdued by the chilly and quiet loneliness of a one man band hidden deep inside his home studio. While Terbo's techno-pop arrangement skills may shine in moments- witness the instrumental breaks in 'Stuck on You' or 'Cat in the Window' and the comeback ending to 'Ow'- his production standards still fall way below other established electronic artists of his generation. And, strangely, as a culture of younger do-it-yourself artists such as the UK's 'The Streets' have been able to boldly communicate with stripped down lo-fi home studio aesthetics that shine in their authentic disdain for- and lack of- production know-how, Terbo seems to be out of the loop on this one, unable to push himself over the bar.
Terbo fans will most likely find themselves skipping ahead to track 8, which begins a nice three song set of broken beat cutups co-produced with Oakland's Switchcraft Recordings. Here, Terbo's classic non sequitur digital cutup humor hilariously dices its way through some turntablist and trunk-heavy hip hop grooves. While refreshing, these tracks don't necessarily flow with the rest of the album or cover any new terrain, and would be better presented somewhere else, perhaps in vinyl form or the much more affordable mp3 format. From there the album goes into a blissfully dreadful one minute noise assault that pays homage to Terbo's Chaorin Kombat Noise Battle trophies, and a snide political cartoon- presented as a radio commercial- lampooning the looting of Iraq in the recent Gulf War Sequel. Tacked on to the end as an afterthought are three tunes from his existing catalog- including the effervescent "Faces in the Clouds"- which might be appreciated by newcomers and longtime followers alike as these recordings are long out of print.
Excellent liner notes by well known activist, artist and author Eric Drooker stand out in this package, which also features some nice skull paintings by Terbo himself. Also of interest is another hopelessly endearing cameo by Terbo's daughter Kwesi on the stripped down ditty 'Hello Sunshine.'