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Subzero Sensei

Cathode Ray Tube
Subzero Sensei
(CFom Records)

On the inside of this release by Cathode Ray Tube lies the statement "Mistakes Are Intentional And Fun." While that might be a statement that sounds like more of a warning to some people, I actually thought it was pretty interesting. Not only is this an independent electronic artist, but instead of being a bit too highbrow about their music, they poke a bit of good-natured fun at themselves. While it may lead one to also believe that this album is full of technical glitches and just plain bad musicianship (which could then be explained away with that above statement), that's not the case either.

In fact, I'd never heard of C-Fom Records nor Cathode Ray Tube at all before this release. Like many people, Charles Terhune cranked out these tunes in relative obscurity, but damned if they aren't pretty good. Broken up into 16 different tracks, Subzero Sensei actually reminds me a lot of the older Warp Records release by Black Dog Communications entitled Spanners. While 8 of the tracks on the disc are actual pieces, there are also shorter pieces in-between each one of them (like the "Bolt" tracks on the aforementioned disc) called "Skits" that help set apart the tracks from one another. While the music isn't necessarily similar at all times, the album flows in sort of the same way.

Again, while I'm not sure if Terhune's influences are some of those early Warp releases (like Black Dog and B12), fans of that work would certainly do well to seek this disc out. "Kap Dwa" rolls along with some serious low-end rumble while some gurgling electronic sounds bubble over the top of it and "Xa" bangs out an almost abrasive beat under haunting synth washes. If you close your eyes and turn up "Old Organics" really loud, you'd swear that you'd just popped in the newest release in Warps "Artificial Intelligence" series circa 1994. Really, it's that good.

Probably the weakest spots on the disc are the tracks known as "Skits" that fall in-between the regular ones and range in time anywhere from 30 seconds to just under two minutes. While a couple of them work (the hilarious "Skit: IDM" has a computer voice belching out words while a chunky beat plays in the background), most of them simply don't develop into much. A couple tracks don't really hit on all cylinders, but when they do, this album is awesome. Just to make a point, things close out with the 15-minute long track "Tremble." The slowly-evolving track just keeps drawing you in further and further the longer it goes along and ends up feeling like a slightly less evil Leo Anibaldi track. Anyway, I hate to drop so many names in terms of references, but this is a small label artist doing some pretty good work. Good stuff on the small Boston label.

Rating: 7.25