Testube - Backwater
This review was commissioned through Ko-fi. However, it bears no weight on the score or decision. All reviews are written from an unbiased standpoint.
Can you believe that there are quite a few reviews on Brutal Resonance that I have no knowledge of? Sure, many people now see me as the face of Brutal since I’ve taken over as the editor-in-chief a few years back, but prior to 2011 I’ve little knowledge of what exactly went down on the site. One of the more bizarre reviews I’ve read recently, and this is due to my current connected relationship with this artist, would be of Testube’s “Off Purpose”. This is not bashing the writer in any sense, but the way it’s written makes it seem as if the album is at least decent or somewhat good, yet the score for said review is reflectively off. In a sense, I’ve come to right that wrong not as an apology, but as a source of (what I hope would be considered) credible writing.
As such, for those that may not know (as I did prior to recent contact), Testube is an experimental, glitchy, and industrial artist with many other genres intertwined. Fading into obscurity and back multiple times in the past (most recently due to a move to a cabin with no electricity), Testube is back with their brand-new album “Backwater”. The move to the cabin occurred nearly ten years ago so many of these songs have technically been in production for just that amount of time. Like many others, however, solo artist and founder Jeff Danos found time during the pandemic to finally complete a new original album for 2022. The seventeen-track album “Backwater” is a fairly interesting and minimal dark electronic album filled with all kinds of odd samples and experiments.
“Backwater” is a long album coming in at seventeen tracks in total. But what else could you expect from an album that’s been in what many would consider development hell for the past ten years. I always like to state with these kinds of reviews I shan’t be able to cover every single song here. But what I will be able to do is cover what I consider to be the best songs on the album as well as any criticism I may find. So, onwards.
‘Memory Dump’ has a wonderful minimal set-up that sounds as if the Cold War had an electronic baby and dumped it into a retro, analog synthesizer featuring modern day politics. Replacing the vocals are various samples from either documentaries or news stations that clip statements for a socio-political statement that’s fairly easy to identify. While this won’t get the dancefloor filled with the average rivethead, it’s a fairly smart composition that I can liken to early Kraftwerk techno.
When I first heard ‘Themself’, I felt as if I was listening to a tech-noir soundtrack. The synthesizers that decorate the background sound as if they’re supposed to give off the sleaziness of a saxophone on a rain-soaked night. Not only that, but the spoken word lyrical delivery is smokey enough that it sounds like it could’ve been spat at an open mic night as some dive bar where only the lonely, ashamed, and criminal visit. Of course, this is my imagination going off, but so be it.
I heavily enjoyed the experimental nature of ‘Rtolls’, the tenth track. Deeper bass mechanics are utilized in patchy formation, as other electronic notes whir themselves in. Sounding like a song made from a robot given free reign over a synthesizer, ‘Rtolls’ is an excellent little number. In a bit of a double whammy, much like the first two songs that I covered, ‘Zlag Pickup’ is another track that I heavily enjoyed. There’s a bit of a brilliance going on in this song. I feel as if Testube was attempting to imitate the sounds of a jungle, ominous as it may be, purely with electronic instrumentation. For example, the chirps and caws and calls of birds are replaced by electronic effects. Slowly, as the song moves forward, we’re given an ambient-laced fusion with drum’n’bass elements. To be honest, it’s very impressive, and had me imagining what Predator would have been like if its score was similar to this.
One of the few songs I have to give criticism to would be ‘Adventures in Heart-Stopping’. It begins off swell, with this dark ambient build-up complete with insect-like scratches. The little xylophone like sound effects keep the track going, but it’s otherwise rather bland and uneventful. Even the final minute-and-a-half or so falls to the usual trappings of dark ambiance and doesn’t really offer anything refreshing. Part of me thinks that this should have been on Testube’s chopping block. Then again, it is his artistic vision, so it is what it is. I just don’t like it.
That being said, that’s one of seventeen songs that I wasn’t fond of. And I can easily say that for the rest of Testube’s album I had a pretty good time. The music is varied enough that each piece was a bit of a puzzle for my brain to wrap around. Often times I found myself turning stories around them, or at least comparing them to a story that I either read, heard, or seen before – such as the case with ‘Zlag Pickup’. This is a great return for Testube and hopefully more catch on as there’s a ton of goodies to be discovered on “Backwater”. Eight out of ten.Apr 11 2022
I've been writing for Brutal Resonance since November of 2012 and now serve as the editor-in-chief. I love the dark electronic underground and usually have too much to listen to at once but I love it. I am also an editor at Aggressive Deprivation, a digital/physical magazine since March of 2016. I support the scene as much as I can from my humble laptop.
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