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POP MUSIC REVIEW

Test Department: Cool Vibes, Warm Energy

November 01, 1996|SANDY MASUO

When industrial music began some 20 years ago, it had more to do with performance art than rock spectacle. Early practitioners often played railroad yards, factories and warehouses, incorporating the debris of these settings into their music; sheet metal and plastic tubs became percussion instruments, anchoring the clangor of power tools, guitars and electronically processed bits of ambient noise.

England's Test Department was among the first wave of industrial artists and over the years its music has continued to expand, absorbing elements of world music and the dance underground. On Wednesday, the quartet filled the Roxy with its heady blend of cool, techno vibes and warm, organic energy.

Wielding an arsenal of percussion, including exotic rattles, traditional drum kits, wood planks and sheets of metal, the musicians shifted seamlessly from hyper-kinetic dance beats to deep, undulating funk grooves with occasional vocal interjections, horn samples and even a 1751216749hear.

Also on the bill was Sheep on Drugs, a British duo that labored at making its marginally interesting dance music seem provocative and intense, and Not Breathing, a Tucson team that effortlessly spun a mesmerizing stream of sound that metamorphosed from an icy ambient opening to a fiery, churning finale.

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