Photo: Grant Spanier
Terry Presume defies conventions and evades categories but he can't escape physics. The self-described "walking question mark" has an orbit of influences around him, free-floating ideas and sounds seemingly unconnected. But, through sheer loud energy, he spins them all together, a centrifugal force of musical brilliance. In short order, a star.
The gravity of Terry's latest project, What Box? (Exactly Terry, what box?), coalesces influences almost deliberately dissonant - bluegrass guitar picking paired with ethereal downtempo beats, raw spoken-word lyrics over celestial synths, fat funk drums as the underbelly to emo chorus pleas. Musically, Terry has escaped the laws of music to build a project of human endeavor, a satellite of his persona speeding through the airwaves delivering on his desire to make music that makes memories.
While Terry strives to be unconstrained by genre, he is always "picking up on omens" and doesn't free himself from the legacy of musicianship before him. He credits influences as diverse as Robert Johnson and André 3000 and respects the black tradition of musicians for "breaking rules before they were written." Relishing in that ethos, Terry serves this legacy not by being mired in its dogma but by "giving musicians their flowers," his sound as startlingly unique as theirs once were.
Terry's gift is also defiant of a current trend, a profound range in song structure. Many have taken to every ingredient in the blender motif, but the Terry Presume technique is to selectively apply influences, so finding a true ballad on the record next to a cinematical power funk bop is profound in what is left out. To be fair, these aren't throwback revisionist covers, instead, a small glimpse into the bag of tricks Terry is machinating, breaking "rules before they are written."
Most artists give coached responses about originality, almost pleading with their audience to think of them as deliberately different, impossible to fit in a box. But we still find them all in narrow bands of playlists, hoping the algorithm gods bounce them above their peers. Terry is clear his whole vision is to be "unboxed," to never be a checkmark on an A&R template, to dive into the feelings, the true wellspring for distinctiveness, and hence What Box? is a space voyage of music emissions.
To Terry, "genres are emotions." It is the nature of discovery to find love, heartbreak, and pain embodied in separate genres, just as every planet is a cocktail of gravity, pressure, and heat. So, Terry cannot escape physics, he is bound to celestial rules, but having created cosmic kismet that mirrors an orbit across galaxies, prepare yourself to be launched into a sonic black hole whereby nothing can escape but the pure wonder of what's on the other side.
Listen to What Box? below: