Album Review: Kooba Tercu – Proto Tekno

[Rocket Recordings; 2020]

The members of Kooba Tercu are now located in Greece, Crete and London, and on new album Proto Tekno you can almost hear the joyful abandon at play in their coming together. Communion is a key element in this album; that point at which the music transcends the role of being the vessel of the message to evolve into the message. Proto Tekno skips from one aural landscape to the next, paying no great heed to the song writing rules or generic parameters that record company execs seem to cling onto so blindly for ease of commodifying a product. The listener is served up an array of styles on this, their third album, that shifts, contorts and shakes.

Album opener “Benzoberry” kicks into life with a fuzzy adrenalin-fuelled guitar line and we are in garage rock territory. Drums hurtle and crash, the bass stays stoically repetitive, while the guitar lines skim over the track’s surface in exuberant manner as they careen this way and that, a law unto themselves. Vocal lines are buried deep in the mix, a repeated refrain toward the end serving as an incantation to who-knows-what – a joyful and wholly life affirming banger of a track.   

“Cemento Mori” sounds like Fugazi produced by Kevin Shields which means, obviously, it’s a thing of beauty. A slow and meandering pounding rhythm is met head-on by an almighty squeal of a guitar that sounds simultaneously wonkily repugnant and wonderfully glorious. It’s a scuzzed-up rock’n’roll beast that hurtles you around the room as you try to cling on for dear life. There is a sense of menace throughout, and later when the track reveals a hypnotic and punishing racket of a guitar hook you succumb to its will and give in to the Gods of Tinnitus who will now be with you eternally. In all seriousness, though – look after your ears, kids!

Kooba Tercu play with boundaries and permutations of sound. Where a sweet spot is found in terms of the timbre of the music, they crank the sonic ratchet up a few notches to allow the music to effervescently spew out of the speakers rather than pleasantly pour over you.  The first two tracks hurl themselves at you, but then just as you settle into the album’s mood the band start to look elsewhere for inspiration. 

“Filter Feeder” is centred around industrial atmospherics and tribal percussion, like a tranquilised SPK finding their groove and damn well sticking with it. The layering of the beat makes it sound like any number of kosmische Musik bands, but with an eerie sparseness that other, lesser bands would have felt the need to fill. “Fair Game” is a mesmerising mix of distortion and propulsive synths that sounds like Nine Inch Nails remixed by Kooba Tercu’s awesome label mates Gum Takes Tooth, while “Qasan” is full to the brim of energetic and faltering goth riffs and shamanistic hollering.

Proto Tekno is a pearl of an album. Throughout its duration you often feel like you are listening to more than one band, or one outfit with too many ideas going on. In most cases this would be to the detriment of the work as a whole, but the flow of the album here is measured and assuredly paced. There is a sense of natural abandon, of space and freedom, but also of intricate human connection. Chaos reigns, but order prevails. It is in this symbiotic intertwining of rigid structure and the fluidity of freeform expression that makes this such a compelling listen.