If you’ve ever wondered what the soundtrack to existential dread might be, then French producer Ténèbre might have just created it. On the face of it his new record Terraform is a vast, harsh, cold and unrelentingly dystopian vision, but once you become accustomed to it, although it never becomes welcoming, you can stop to admire the view.
‘Terraform’ is a term used in science fiction for creating a likeness of Earth on another planet, and Carl Sagan’s chimerical proposition to terraform Venus is probably the closest we will ever come to actually doing it. But what makes it interesting in this case is that the music contained here was first used as sound design for AV experiences on this planet exploring climate change. To the listener, it feels like Ténèbre is actually soundtracking a sort of reverse-terraforming as we turn Earth from paradise into another uninhabitable mass orbiting a star.
For a producer who has skirted around the edges of techno’s broad church, this is decidedly ambient fare; not much in here would sit too comfortably on a dancefloor, but experienced away from that context, the journey through Terraform is paced superbly with many reflective opportunities. It seems clear that Ténèbre enjoys programming drums – he’s certainly very good at it – and the detail is impressive, nowhere more so than on ‘Morph’, which could pass you by without this level of care.
‘Tocsin’ features the album’s most overtly melodic moment, whilst ‘Abstraction’ feels like the most human track on Terraform; although the sonic palette largely remains the same there is something unsure and probing in the top line’s dual energies of excitement and terror. Album closer ‘Dusk’ is another highlight, with synths oscillating amongst each other as occasional notes tear through its fabric like comets across a martian sky.
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