This month’s Retro Review brings you to a group that is considered one of the founders of industrial music: Test Dept. Originally formed in 1981 in London, Test Dept. was considered a group that created music as a means of revolt to the surrounding events of the times. Their use of unconventional instrumentation (including pipes, metal beams, and other dilapidated construction equipment) gave their sound a very raw, mechanical tone that was often jarring and jolting to the senses. As time went on, their sound became progressively more techno inspired, although the mechanical influences stayed with them. Their final album, ‘Tactics For Evolution’, was released in 1997. Check after the jump to read my opinion!
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The album opens up with ‘Enigma of Doctor Dee’, a track that constantly inspired images of ‘Tetsuo: Iron Man’ in my mind. The main base repetition sounds like a distorted alarm mixed with the sound of two metal sheets hitting each other. Layered on top of that, quite often, are the sounds of crows cawing while menacing and ominous music floats overhead. The end result is very ‘’Cronenberg’’; a mixture of the mechanical and the organic (seems like this theme is pretty popular this week
). Though not all of the following tracks share this eerie feeling, ‘Enigma of Doctor Dee’ casts a pervasive feeling of creepiness.
The production on the album is very modern sounding: You could easily assume that the album was recorded within the past few years. One of the joyous things about this album is that with each listen, as is often with electronic/techno/industrial albums, new sounds and new layers will emerge. The variety of sounds and tones and patches used on this album would probably inspire an electronic musician to no end. However, for the casual listener who may not notice such intricacies, ‘Tactics For Evolution’ makes for a great background CD when you want to creep your friends out.
The impact that Test Dept. has had on the electronic scene cannot be refuted or argued. Through a long and passionate history, Test Dept. has shown that music can represent a society that wishes for change or, at the very least, some sort of a noticeable impact. ‘Tactics For Evolution’ is an album that will subtly worm it’s way into you, grab hold and not let go. My only complaint is that often, the main theme of the song doesn’t change. It is constantly there and the rest of the music just builds on top of that. Some change in the base theme could easily help many of these songs.
4.5 out of 5 skulls