Terms – All Becomes Indistinct (SkinGraft Records) – There isn’t enough time in the day for all the music fired at us, especially when there’s paint to throw and art shows to hang and pigeons pecking at the studio door and the terms of it all to be explored (are we late with this? We just about made it before the release date didn’t we?). Terms, hopefully you’ve caught slices of this fine album already on the Other Rock Show? Several tracks have been played during the run up to the much anticipated release – hey almost like we’re playing some slick part in the advanced marketing campaign or something. I didn’t get where I am today my being part of some slick marketing campaign! No ice cream here, no eyescreaming for crows or indeed no one called CJ, just some fool and some watching pigeons trying to dance around more architecture or falling up stairs and hopefully everything is becoming distinct in some kind of way or other? I see on the SkinGraft Bandcamp page for this fine new Terms album, that the label chooses to kick off the info with an Organ quote, apparently last time we said that “Terms are kind of pulling rock apart and then putting it back together in a way that is still very much rock music but somehow isn’t quite rock as we know it. “Other” you might say. Tightly composed? – Yes. A sense of precision? – Yes. Yet it does feel so alive, so free… Laced with a spontaneous spirit – a careful need to go and discover where the next note goes”
We could just repeat that, but then Terms haven’t just repeated what they did on their excellent debut album here. Of course they haven’t, Terms are a serious band, a proper creative unit who need to challenge themselves as much as they need to us listeners. Terms have pulled what they did last time apart and without ever destroying what they did first time around, put back together again in yet another slightly different way. All Becomes Indistict is the second full-length album from Chris Trull (Yowie, Grand Ulena) and Danny Piechocki (Ahleuchatistas, Jitter), the record label tell us “Terms, arriving by way of Tampa Bay, Florida and St. Louis, Missouri surfaced during the pandemic as a socially distanced band, are dealing in dissonance, atonality and the unknown”. Were told that “In the months that followed the pandemic, the band pressed on, finally performing live (including a celebrated performance at 2022’s No Coast Festival) and continued to hone their craft – forging an elastic rubberbanding harmony all their own – free of safe spaces”
SkinGraft Records, as we’ve said many times on these fractured pages (and on previous printed ones), are one of the finest record labels in the world, one of the few you know you can consistently trust, that you can just go buy their releases without needing to hear them first (like you did with those Stiff singles or the early days of Neat Records). The fact that this is on SkinGraft should be all you need to know, they’ve never released anything that wasn’t vital and this is as good as anything they have released on the long-running label.
This second Terms album builds on the first, it takes what they did first time around and pushes it all just a little further without ever pushing it too far – and it would be easy to push it too far, there’s an art to taking it to the edge and not falling over and tumbling down into some kind of disconnected self-indulgent valley that no one wants to join you in. Terms make hard-boiled, beautifully difficult, powerfully complex instrumental pop music, the kind of music that never is difficult to listen to, to go with, to flow with, they maybe clever, they maybe far more complex as musicians than most are, they may be very very challenging but this is so easy to go with, to listen to, to just simply enjoy. These people know how to paint their music, they know where and when to move their brushes, they know how to weave it, they know how to not overload it – let me be frank here, I can’t stand musicians, I detest show off musos and all that hey look at me with my pony tail and my five string bass crap, all that look at how clever and complexed and technical I am, I hate all that bulshit – none of that here, this is delightful, this is warm, this is natural, this isn’t in anyway forced, this is just so so right, so engaging. And listen to that detail, listen to that bit there, that perfectly wholesome apple-pie-and-hot-custard flavoured riff at the very end of that just right closing track Let’s Sleep Until it’s Colder. No sleep here, let’s go round again, maybe we’ll turn back the hands of time? Play it again, play it again, let’s go round way more than just one more time.
I’m pretty sure you don’t read this far down, if you have any sense you don’t! Surely you just read the headline, grab the vital info you need, cut to the chase (how good does that chase sound) and play the YouTube or Bandcamp (or whatever we’ve posted down at the foot of the review) and make your own minds up? Who needs music reviews these days? On with it all, I’ll play the album again in a moment, got the Average White Band going now, the Averages never needed to show off, they had soul, they knew the score. Terms, like the Average White Band, don’t need to show off, Terms have soul, okay, that opening track does sound a lot like a gang of crabs chasing you and you’re not going to start dancing around your room like a fool like you would be doing if you got distracted by the Average White Band (you not still reading this are you? The music is over there, go play it). It should be noted that Terms sound absolutely nothing like the Average White Band and that this opening track of this new Terms album more than sets the tone, more that tells you this isn’t going to be the debut album part two. It is very definitely Terms though, they have established their sound already, their fingerprint, their musical personality is there already, if you know thew band already then all you’ll know this is Terms without being told.
Hell, we may not need great big long-ass album reviews this far into this not-so-new-any-more century but that’s not going to stop me now! There’s something vital here, this is why we started this damn Organ thing (way too many years ago) in the first place. We started this time-eating beast to shout about art like this! These pieces of treasure that the mainstream music press constantly ignore or just avoid, these musical treats that keep is fuelled. There’s an elegance here, a pin-point gracefulness, if it is dance music, yes you can dance to it, they may sound like they’re falling up their studio stairs, all danger arms pushing and shoving (as Mr Smith once said when things were going off an such) but they do it so gracefully, so perfectly and you know no limbs are going to get broken before they reach the top of those stairs. I should say, for insurance reasons, I’m multi tasking here, I am trying to paint here, I have a deadline to deal with. Terms are as precise as a Jackson Pollock drip, I may well have said that about them before, Jackson knew where every single one of his drips was going way before it got there, Jack the Dripper would have loved this new album, he’d be there, paint rush in hand, loving every little bit of detail, every bit of movement. There’s serious movement, I bet this album would scare the crap out of your average prog rock fan, this is not conservative (small c) music, this is properly progressive.
We’re running through First Existential now, it really does feel like we’re running, like the chase really is on, that this is a thrill a minute album ride. I must confess I find most “clever” instrumental rock music becomes a little boring after a (short) while, the whole complex Math Rock thing bores the hell out of me most of the time, get a damn singer is my default setting, Terms really really don’t need one, they don’t need words or lyrics or anything more than what they’re already giving us here. This is seriously composed goodness, this is rich in complexity, this is clever full-bodied progressive music, this is hardcore Otherness, but this is also very very warm, this is so inviting, this is so so rewarding, this instantly fits like those old boots you love so much, this is feels so so right and yes, I probably have said way more than enough now enough now and I was making a cup of tea when I started this, damn Terms, you’ve gone and stewed my tea! This is a brilliant album, highly recommended, let’s go round again… (sw)
You can hear two or three tracks on Bandcamp right now ahead of the release, the album, I do beleive, is out on April 21st, I expect the whole this will be up on Bandcamp after the release date.
For now here’s an exclusive track not current up there on Bandcamp for another couple of days…
Meanwhile, Marina Organ presents an hour of music that uses unconventional structures and ‘other’ time signatures – gathered from the worldwide undergrounds of math rock, avant prog, weird electronica and strange pop. This week’s show features new music from Terms and Emmett Elvin, plus Trauma City, NYOS, Cheval De Frise, Gentle Giant, Laurie Anderson, My Octopus Mind, and Psychoyogi.