CD Review

Testube – “Corporation”

By Marcus Pan

CorporationSigue Sigue meets Kraftwerk meets techno-glitch, Testube will annoy the hell out of some people and perk the interest of others. Myself, I can hover between the two sides depending on which portion of the album is currently spitting from my speakers. I also get a kick out of their well written press kit. Testube take the storyline that he is discommunicated from corporate America (much like Call Me Alice(1) are from an asylum according to their story) and the press kit takes on the form of warnings against "Employee No. 05-9903 - Danos, Jeff" who is recommended for termination.

With the press kit comes a memo and corporate confidential file that details a termination sequence, memo about this dangerous employee and a really well made press sheet besides. The memo references an evil recording made by said employee that references the company's bad policies (i.e. layoff procedures, toxic waste dumping, etc.). Testube has been music making since 1994 and it seems it's finally caught up with him and got him fired.

Following a number of releases, mostly remix and revisit CDs, Testube's Jeff Danos now hangs with the DSBP Records crew. He says he kicks back all the trends of common futurepop and similar musical genres. He's certainly succeeding at creating something unusual here. The idea of Corporation was to "mimic this cold cubicle environment" mostly by mixing up common fractured elements and layering them one on another together.

Testube's lyrics are very short and to the point. Covering topics that would be expected on a piece of work called Corporation, he'll touch on environmental trouble, ozone holes, consultancy layoffs and really brings the humdrum life of cubicle cowboys to the forefront. There are not many lyrics, though, and most of the CD is the bleeps, blips and clicks of computer based electronica with only occasional vocals. I feel Corporation would have benefited more from Jeff's poetic license.

Vocals, when there, droll out a deep monotone while estranged rhythms and creepy computer caterwauls surround. There's long breaks of time without them, when you're caught in a technical hell of information overload and on off musical switches. Byte by byte Testube delivers a vivid illusion of being stuck in a world of data nothingness, applying samples here and patches there until a virtual patchwork quilt of futuristic blips bear into your mind.

After a while it can get so droll, even with the constant changing pulsations of Jeff's HAL based musical flatulations, that it becomes a little difficult to wade through. It's great for weird background or techno-club bleatings, but it's not exactly at-home listenable. Cubicle VFP for example goes on and on – using different sounds and clickety clacks but with all the mish mashing it does it still somehow sounds the same throughout.

Exiled is similar. It starts out cool and freaky and continues winding along until it's just simply droll and freaky. Like taking a breakdown to a better song, extending it long beyond its time, and calling a full track. It speeds up a bit, making it a little more interesting, and will add higher octave melodies and cute little dirges, but on the whole doesn't really go anywhere. Testube may argue that, being stuck in a cubicle, the point is that you're not going anywhere. Success of some type I suppose?

Jeff uses some really interesting rhythms, that's for certain. At times he'll even let it die, such as in Global Warning, and grow a new one for his needs. It's an interestnig effect and while I can appreciate its musicianship I can also say that it's going to really piss off DJs and club goers. And there's really only so many minutes of glitch I can take – it's all pretty much computer driven noise after a while.

Standout tracks like Promise of God shock you momentarily into a listenable attitude. But the track descends into too deep of an experimental vibe and includes those track wrecking rhythm crack ups. Cancersticks opens at the rhythmic shakedown from the start so it's imploded itself before it's barely begun and the samples, while eerie, don't quite fit the computeresque surroundings. Track 11 is the In Virus Tandem mix of Atomic – hinting at New Order and applying a solid rhythm, this particular track is easily the best throughout all of Corporation.

Testube overall isn't my cup of tea. I can appreciate what Jeff's trying to do with the mimicking a cubicle thing, but it's not made for my at-home tastes. Glitch club background, rave-dub usage, maybe and sure. But it's going to be hard for a DJ or club runner to pull a track here for floor spinning with all the rhythm losses (loses the floor with so much switching) and after a while it all starts to sound the same no matter how different it really is. There's only so much you can do with blips and bleeps.

Contact Information:
Testube Specimens
Post: PO Box 461753, Aurora, CO, 80046, USA
(1) Their latest, All Against 5ive, is reviewed but hasn’t gone to print at the time of this writing. We did interview them in Legends #102, but that was five years ago!