"You're talking about things I haven't done yet!" You and anybody else. Terminator is a record that gets ahead of itself, hurled back from some pure-war future to explode into 1992, a musical-fragmentation grenade whose rhythmic splinters change everything. The very word, timestretch, given to the ear-baffling sampling process Terminator inaugurated speaks of something new and uneasy in recordmaking. It sounds almost psychedelic, but there's little or nothing lysergic about Terminator's militarization of the dancefloor.
The facts are as follows: this and its million hardcore brothers represented something fresh, unbearably exciting, incandescently inventive, something that burned across the first half of this decade and briefly knocked Britain reeling. For anyone who noticed, even Johnny-come-latelies like myself, hardcore was and is the nineties' defining mythic moment, and I could with a clear conscience fill this list entirely with one hundred rave, jungle or drum and bass twelves, and be confident that it had earned its title 'Greatest'. Why don't I? Because, although hardcore at its unbelievable peak was everything Freaky Trigger would want a record to be - jaw-dislocatingly futuristic music which is also absolutely, giddily pop - that peak was passed long ago. The records remain, urgent and unarguable, but celebrating hardcore at the expense of all else would feel too much like a wake.
But here's Terminator, anyway, at the list's opening, as brutal as ever: its paranoid rhythmic slitherings, its freaked samples, its urgent chirrups, its sickened metalloid wheezings a slap in the face to any dancefloor utopia you might have wanted to name. But unlike the crasser darkness manifest in late 90s drum'n'bass, Terminator (and its fellows) is too alive to ever bring you down, too busy flexing on the power-surge of its own inventiveness and self-sufficiency. The bass pulses like a heart, scared and excited to the point of spasm, and over the top somebody mutters "Terminator is out there". Damn right.
I did not, and have never owned "one hundred rave, jungle or drum and bass twelves".
I haven't listened to "Terminator" for a long time and don't have an MP3 either - my 12" has been beached since my last turntable broke. I expect I still like it. What jumps out at me from this entry - apart from my confidence - is my passionate belief in jungle and my mile-wide debt to Simon Reynolds (cf. "militarization", a favourite metaphor of SR's which I nicked entirely). The former wouldn't have existed without the latter.
The slightly defensive stance of this entry was based on my experience on alt.music.alternative on USENET, where there was a strong - though not often blatantly expressed - divide between the people who believed in electronic music as the locus of pop innovation, and the people who disliked it or didn't think it was particularly important. My own evangelism, transmitted to me via Simon R's articles in 90s music mags, was slightly odd given that I danced about twice during the whole late 90s, to ANYTHING. But I really did love listening to this music. "Terminator" may have been chosen cos of its 'importance' within the scene but it would probably still make the cut.