Review: Kuno and Spaceinvasion – Terminal Operations 002 (Terminal Operations)

I missed the first Terminal Operations release, a V/A sampler which came out last year, because, well, I didn’t know about the label. I almost missed this too except for the fact that Kuno’s collaboration with Koehler, the snapping Anti Gravity Switch on Berceuse Heroique, was burned into my brain for a long time, and I was hungry for more madness. Kuno’s partner in Terminal Operations, Spaceinvasion, was still an unknown quantity, but the Discogs entry states he’s part of a Berlin techno collective. And that surprised me.

Why? Well, we all have preconceptions I guess, and this isn’t what I expected to hear out of Europe’s techno capital. I know the legion of producers in that city hail from an infinite mass of different musical styles and genres, but when I think of Berlin I still imagine slick, deep, techno rollers rather than anything quite so raw and heavy as this. It’s an odd prejudice to have, and I’m aware it’s one which has no basis in reality. But there you go.

At first I was going to say it reminded me much more of the Dutch take on acid, as fostered by the Murdercapital/Viewlexx/Bunker axis over the years, and there is something gnarly and unforgiving to Terminal Operations 002 that harbours a similar sense of gleeful misadventure. Both producers share a taste for thick beats and serrated acid, with the bass pushed deep into the red and the tunes evoking classic acid and techno without ever giving into nostalgia. It’s quite the opposite in fact. On Kuno’s Chemistry Concepts, the tune unfurls around a proper old-school acid line, but it’s one that is pulled and pushed this way and that above some titanic, crunching beats, until it tangles into strange, kaleidoscopic shapes, year-zeroeing the formula and closing the door to the past.

Elsewhere that vibe isn’t quite as overt, but Terminal Operations 002 retains the same smart, almost nihilistic energy and individualistic identity. As I said, I felt there was a kinship with the Netherlands scene – but on listening to it a couple of times I think it’s less to do with the sound and more with the rugged grooves that underpin everything. Spaceinvasion’s tunes match Kuno’s in their heel-snapping potency, but are even more tied to the funk. Dialectic chews at your brain, a dirty bassed, stomping, gutter jacker that slaps its insistent vocal sample over some of the best acid I’ve heard in a long while, but it’s Pill Pusher that’s the real eye opener. Hitting you for six with a truly sweaty breakbeat, it clambers upwards, riding a buckling groove into cosmic territory. It’s less busy, less aggressively punk than the other tracks, but even more tilted towards late night messiness.

This is one of those little gems that comes out of nowhere to remedy a situation you didn’t even know needed remedied. New labels are a dime a dozen these days, but it’s rare and exciting for one to appear seemingly out of nowhere with such a complete sense of its own sound. Terminal Operations are firmly on my watch-list now. They should be on yours too. Acid with attitude restored.