Brian Eno, “Cutting Room I” (Netflix Music)

In a 2016 review for The Stranger, I postulated that Brian Eno's atmospheric, song-oriented LP The Ship possessed the air of a final release. That prognosis was wrong, as the British ambient-music pioneer/producer/philosopher has issued at least eight solo or collaborative albums since then. What I've heard from those recordings—save for the Music for Installations comp—has not impressed me as much as Eno's peak work from the '70s through the '90s, though there's definitely some quality material within them. But the man set such a high bar, it's no surprise he hasn't always reached those stratospheric heights since then.

The latest Eno endeavor is a compilation of pieces he created over the last five years for the soundtrack of the British television drama Top Boy (Score From the Original Series). It's been described as “the UK's answer to The Wire”; I've not seen any episodes. (Two tracks—“Top Boy” and “The Sombre”—previously appeared on the compilation Film Music 1976-2020.) Eno's Top Boy theme itself achieves a rewarding balance of pensive bleakness and angelic hope, its chilling bell tones, metallic percussion, wispy hymnal vocals, and muted melody coalescing into subdued, dramatic scene-setting. “The Sombre” is a Doppler-effected, disorienting drone that's one of Eno's most riveting compositions of this century.

“Cutting Room I”—which never made it onto the score, hence its title—is similarly gripping. It's suffused with a low-lit, Lynchian ominousness that translates well to the show's East London underground crime world. The stealthy bass and chilling piano motif recall Miles Davis's In a Silent Way on Quaaludes while also harking back to Eno's “Juju Space Jazz” from his 1992 album, Nerve Net.

In a press release, Eno expounded on his approach to Top Boy: “If you’d been scoring it in the conventional Hollywood way, the temptation would be to up the excitement factor, up the danger factor, all the time. But Top Boy is really about children in a pretty bad situation. So I explored the internal world of the children, not just what’s happening to them in the external world. Quite a lot of the music was deliberately naïve, it was sort of simple. The melodies were simple, not really sophisticated, or grown-up.” This explanation—and the track, of course—makes me want to watch a television program... which is a rare thing, indeed.

The Top Boy double LP is released digitally on September 1 and on limited-edition wax (via Music on Vinyl) and CD (via Beatnik) on September 29. The show's final season debuts on September 7.

TERMINATor, “Rat/Hellhole/Beak” (self-released)

Last year, Seattle/NYC's TERMINATor released their debut album, Placate Boring Flesh, and proved that rock music could still surprise and baffle at this late date. In my review of it on Slog, I wrote, “An instinctual curiosity guides their songs into unusual and interesting places,... TERMINATor affectionately sucker-punch your expectations about how young modern women rock. Their band name and the heavy-metal-ish font gracing their new album's cover further upset preconceptions about this iconoclastic unit.”

Since Placate came out, TERMINATor have toured the US and begun work on their second full-length, which they hope to finish by the end of the year. In the meantime, they've also created a new video—shot by the group's bassist/guitarist/vocalist Lauren Rodriguez, who's also an excellent photographer and videographer. The clip features a triptych of trippy tunes from Placate (“Rat [Hopefully the Boy],” “Hellhole,” and “In Your Beak”), all of which are revivified by the accompanying imagery, which revels in the ripe eroticism of food and nature with the psychedelic intensity of Alejandro Jodorowsky circa The Holy Mountain

On “Rat,” drummer Veronica Dye's ring modulated and desolate flute intro gives way to a tumbling and tarred drum/bass rhythm as Albie's guitar shrieks and tintinnabulates. The madness and noise escalate and then recede to the acrobatic flute coda. “Rat” remains the album's zonked zenith. “Hellhole” is an 89-second showcase for Dye's florid flute prowess while “In Your Beak” languidly descends into quicksand with Sonic Youth-ian “Cotton Crown” clangor and Rodriguez's grim, Kim Gordon-like recitation. It's a gloriously opiated downward spiral of a song. 

With these outstanding visuals and sonics, TERMINATor whet our appetites for the next step in their surrealistic journey.