Terminal Muse: Blue, the new release from Atlanta, Georgia’s Lid EMBA (Sean Moore, if you’re the Feds), is the second in a trilogy dedicated to the cost of persistence in art. Literally. Far from being a gift, the concept posits that the creative urge is actually a curse, a disease, an incurable infection that both drives the artist while draining his or her life-force. It’s no wonder the theory came to Sean during a year-long period of intensive medical treatment, the time-span that produced the 1st recording in the series, Terminal Muse: Red.
As a defense against succumbing completely to such a harsh view, Lid EMBA imagines a musical world in which the three chord, hard-fast-rules that broke the back of a tepid progressive rock scene never came to pass. Instead, the intensity intended for punk is absorbed, minus the blues quotient, and married to the avant garde moves of European electronic music and American jazz, creating a more surreal but no less visceral, liberating force.
While a less experienced practitioner of such a description would create an album of monochrome fury, Terminal Muse: Blue is a varied and well measured listen. Sure, there’s dissonance, crunching synthesizers, blips, bloops, ice cold organs, lush orchestral swells, stuttering drums, and absolutely nothing danceable in the rolling-at-2:00-in-the-morning sense. Simultaneously, there’s a shrewd and eccentric compositional scheme underpinning the surface irrationality that values symmetry, balance, and the superimposition and collision of variable melodic and rhythmic cells.
Often what sounds like loops aren’t and vice versa. Real-time execution was the preference, including a whole lotta flesh and blood drumming (though it is often processed, taken from crumbling 4-track cassette tapes or otherwise recontextualized), removing the recording from the zeitgeist of modern glitch merchants and placing it within the historical lineage of such outre’ experimental rock as King Crimson, Magma, Eno’s early work and This Heat. There is also a kinship with such maverick nonconformists as early Cluster and Kraftwerk, the Bomb Squad’s block-rocking PE productions, and John Carpenter’s classic soundtracks. Despite pre-21st century influences providing much of the inspiration, however, Lid EMBA is a firmly contemporary concern. It’s impossible to imagine a track like, say, ‘Zakula,’ existing at any time other than now.
Lid EMBA’s releases always close with a big bang, supplied here by James Plotkin’s toxic dub of ‘Macedonia,’ appropriately titled ‘Macedonian.’ Terminal Muse: Blue is the third Lid EMBA CD that Plotkin has mastered, so it’s about time that his own fiercely idiosyncratic vision made an appearance.