Assorted scribblings of a dog-eared music journalist

Melody Maker | Album | 19 November 1988

Sleeping Bag

Oh dear. Poor Todd Terry. Twenty one years old and desperate for anonymity – part of the reason why he records under a variety of names, such as Royal House, Black Riot and Swan Lake – his young head is probably suffering rather than swelling beneath the weight of accumulated accolades. His work has been described as remarkable, startling and supreme. He's been called a leader, a legend, a visionary and, heaven help us, God. It's a lot to live up to.

"To The Batmobile Let's Go" is the first of six LPs this DJ turned producer will apparently be releasing in the next few months. Because it's credited to the Todd Terry Project – each pseudonym involves a different generic discipline – it is Terry at his most minimal and most mysterious. To some it may appear to be amateurish. Fine. The fact that the greater part has been recorded on a battered portastudio in a Brooklyn bedroom suggests this is deliberate. Even so, it's not in any sense inadequate.

Everything here is uncluttered, stripped bare, right down to the glistening bones, with a kick drum, a snare and hi-hats, all available at the touch of a button, dominating every track. It's a clattering, rattling, rhythmical din that is returned to time and time again, a shifting ground into which the other inputs always eventually dissolve. It's a percussive workout which is absurdly simple and yet highly invigorating. It is never tedious, even when, as with "The Circus", there's precious little else on offer.

Splashes of keyboards, samples and voices do make their mark, however. "Weekend", originally a disco tune recorded in 1978 by Phreek and Terry's current single, stands proud as the only track that conforms to a standard song structure. Unlike most of the others, there is room for a bassline. Its predecessor, "Bango", is Dinosaur L's "Go Bang" twisted back to front with girly giggles delighting throughout, while T La Rock and spurts of dramatic orchestration feature in "Made By The Man". "You're The One (You Bad)" is Latin hip hop with a brutal edge and the gently fingered piano conjures up a melancholic atmosphere in "Sense".

With "Just Wanna Dance" and "The Circus", there are descending, sideways skating and warped notes and beats, the hints of melody and the rhythm strapped to a rack and bent out of shape, to the very limit of endurance. Sometimes it's like listening to the sound of a huge army quick-marching through a long, winding, concrete pipe. If, in places, it is terrifying and painful, a sense of humbug is never far away, with the words "Let's go" popping up when least expected. A snatch of Third World's "Now That We’ve Found Love" kicks off one track, a big bang ends another, and there's a Casio tickling, then nagging, in "It's Just Inhuman".

Of course, there is nothing here to suggest that Todd Terry is God. Both parties refute the idea, one with anger, the other with embarrassment. Terry says he's only a producer. He simply makes records. It's just that all of the evidence this year, all of the evidence on "To The Batmobile Let's Go", points to the fact that he happens to make dance records one hell of a lot better than anybody else has done in two or three thousand days.

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