Nuclear family

The Terror Couple try to launch a revolution from the 'burbs

Tim Sanders must be going the wrong way. He's on the Dallas North Tollway, heading toward Frisco. Conventional wisdom tells us that anyone driving a van carrying music equipment, wearing dark sunglasses, and not still living with his mother should be driving south, toward Deep Ellum, Exposition Park, Lower Greenville, or some other haunt reserved for musician types. But Sanders just keeps going north until he passes the second set of toll booths...and then he keeps on driving.

Eventually, the van slows to a crawl near a row of identical suburban townhomes where his wife Jacqueline stands in the driveway in an improbably tight T-shirt, waiting to greet him after a busy day at the office. Their young son Anthony rolls by on a pair of roller blades for just long enough to wave hello. Jacqueline leads the way into the living room; and suddenly, suburbia outside seems a long way away.

Crammed in between the prefab walls and ultra-modern kitchen are all manner of computers, keyboards, equalizers, electric guitars, amps, and four-track recorders; this makeshift studio occupies the space normally reserved for dining-room furniture or a sofa or, barring that, just a soft place to sit. At the top of a carpeted staircase are bookshelves filled to capacity with true-crime stories and novels, mostly dealing with the subject of serial killers and mass murderers.

"If it weren't for music," Tim sighs, "I probably would've ended up being a serial killer."

"We used to live downtown," Jacqueline explains of the surroundings. "But we wanted Anthony [Jacqueline's son from a previous marriage] to have good schools. I mean, we did the whole thing--struggling with the small spaces, worrying about our equipment getting stolen--but why deal with it? All the yuppies are moving downtown, so we went the other direction. We hardly ever go down there, except to go to work or do an occasional live show. I think a lot of people are getting tired of the downtown scene."

It's a prophesy hailed by writer-director-actor Dan Zucovic, whose too-hot-for-distribution feature The Last Big Thing shook up independent film festivals last year. Zucovic plays a subversive social critic who challenges everything from alternative music to journalism from his suburban headquarters in the L.A. foothills. He muses that the next cultural revolution will be based in track-housing developments and carried out on little more than a personal computer.

Tim and Jacqueline are living his dream: It was in this very room that they recorded their soon-to-be-released CD, under the nom de trip-hop Terror Couple; it was in this room that they fashioned, out of $2,000 worth of equipment and free software downloaded from the Internet, their brand of Portishead/Massive Attack/Sneaker Pimps-style trip-hop, combined it with a dose of Peter Murphy/Ted Bundy Gothic fanaticism, and then sent it out over the World Wide Web for easy mass consumption. They're the June and Ward of the techno set--cutting and pasting old vinyl records from then and making them the sound of now, trying to join in the battle from the middle of North Dallas.

"This is the future," Sanders says of his living-room setup. "I think more and more and more people are going to be doing this. All it takes is an ear for what sounds good--the rest is just cutting and pasting. Jungle [music] is like the early days of HTML [Internet programming language]: You take a basic code, then alter it and make it into your own creation."

Tim and Jacqueline have the tools and know-how to take over the world too: Tim works as a live video specialist at Audionet, the largest broadcast network on the Internet. Though the disc isn't in stores yet, it has already been released all over the world on the Terror Couple's home page. Type in members.aol.com/t2kill, and you'll be treated to full-length samples of several songs from the still-untitled Terror Couple CD.

The disc, which sounds a whole lot better than its Web-casted counterpart, currently consists of seven songs, most of which tread territory mapped out by Tricky and Portishead, yet they fuse their trip-hop dreaminess with not a little Goth dreariness. (Indeed, such songs as "Dark Beat" and "Crawl Space" are the stuff of which parody is made; they're more amusing than a whole season's worth of "Goth Talk" on Saturday Night Live.) Where the music really shines is on upbeat tracks such as "Wonder Wonder," the William S. Burroughs-laden "Trip Out," and "Folie a Deaux," which gets a helping hand from the tomorrowpeople's Michael "Buzz" Gibson. Unfortunately, the song "Morph Out" may not make it onto the album because it contains a lengthy vocal sample from Trainspotting--but, thanks to the free frontier of the Internet, you can now hear the song with a single click of a mouse.

The Web site also offers video footage taken from an April performance at Trees--though, even with a high-speed connection, the video looks more like a flip-book missing some pages; the sound's also a little muffled, mono and then some. There are also links to other sites where one can find information on similar music styles, such as a link to a European-based site where the entire new Massive Attack CD could be heard, well before it has even been released in the U.S. or England.

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