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Terminal Twilight

House of Love

[Infinite Soundtracks ; 2011]

By ; July 19, 2011 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

Last year, the Los Angeles dark synthpop duo Terminal Twilight dropped a single called “The Fire of Love,” the titular track a cover of the Jody Reynolds rockabilly classic. It had a slow, cool swagger, all finger snaps, hung over guitar strums, and lonely synth lines. The singer spoke the lyrics with Clint Eastwood’s nonchalance and Jessica Rabbit’s seduction. The track was a smoky, woozy affair meant for the back room of some neon-lit desert dive bar.

On the duo’s debut LP, House of Love, they’ve rerecorded “The Fire of Love.” Now it’s a thumping electro track; the lyrics are still casually spoken, but the instrumentation and beat are much more urgent and dancefloor-ready than they were before. Whereas their first version of the song fit snugly on the outskirts of “drag music,” now it’s more of a Eurythmics homage, well outside the downtempo cough-syrup sound of witch house. If you heard the duo’s Black and Blue EP (also from 2010, and a brief record you should totally check out if you haven’t already), then this updated nu-disco sound should come as no surprise.

The changes in “The Fire of Love” reflect Terminal Twilight’s evolution as a whole. “Every time you see me walking down the street, you can feel my heart beat,” Molly Frances speaks-sings on “Heartbeat,” with more than a hint of irony over some long-lost Sega Genesis soundtrack. “Air,” the B-side to the “Fire of Love” single, is also reworked for House of Love. The guitar is more suited to Sunset Boulevard at sunset; the rhythm is resolutely four-to-the-floor. It’s all much more accessible than their previous work—maybe even a little twee, in its own witchy way – but even if they’re in on the joke, they sound sincere, a quality that makes this album much more bearable than the scores of self-conscious “darkwave” of their peers.

This sincerity is key; without it, there’s absolutely no way you’d be able to slog through the album’s ten-minute title track. Frances sings that “there’s a mountain over there, there’s an over there, but I still feel you near when I’m looking for the house of love,” and sure, her vocals have a bit of Modern Witch’s post-whatever apathy, but she also actually sounds like there’s someone she loves — somewhere far away, over there — and misses dearly. Knife-esque synth arpeggios rise and fall behind her while a motorik beat keeps time; the second half of the track is some acid-fried space music, zooming down a highway framed by palm trees, shimmering stars, and half-lit “Open 24 Hours” signs.

It’s easy to dismiss music as seemingly simple as that on House of Love. I’ll admit — and I assume they would too — that there’s nothing really new going on here, but Terminal Twilight keep their music insistent; hooks weave through synth washes while guitar accents that would make Duran Duran proud ring out. Most importantly, they’ve retained the essence of their attitude while updating their sound, and I look forward to hearing what they whip up next.


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