If The Pen Test's Interstate is evidence of anything, it's that Throbbing Gristle's mutant strain of primal, proto-electronic pump is alive and well. While many experimental acts channel the ghastly pioneers' shock-based assault of music-via-sensory-overload and formless clouds of grotesque noise, few have locked into the monotonous rhythm and gloriously minimal loops of Throbbing Gristle's best-known tune, "Discipline." This loosely local project takes those ideas and strips away high-concept theatrics for pure, unadulterated synth worship.
Opener "Interstate" offers up pure electronic minimalism in the vein of seminal bleak electronics label Blackest Ever Black and their cadre of jarred rhythms. "C.E.O." revels in the propulsive groove of arpeggiated synths, with the noiseniks at hand driving down a pitch-black lane of cyclical noise. Bits of blippy melody fly past as the howling vocals spew their echo-laden narrative. The tune's final theme squeezes in a Kraftwerk-esque (think "Ruckzuck," not "Man Machine") suite of high-pitched hysteria.
"Like Machine" turns up the lights just a bit, amping up the vocal display while leaving the lyrics a jumbled din of unintelligible rantings. The track is a tad too up-front, resembling a yelping fit of youngsters trying to make a ruckus in their bedroom. In the end, The Pen Test is stuck deep down in their own hole, and they couldn't be happier to be there. 3 out of 5.