Carter Tutti Void – Transverse (Mute album, 2012)

CarterTuttiVoidAlbumFront_6001-560x560

The tracks that make up Carter Tutti Void‘s Transverse collaboration were recorded live at Mute‘s Short Circuit festival at London’s Roundhouse on May 13th 2011, and according to the sleeve (more on that in a moment) the trio of Chris Carter, Cosey Fanni Tutti and Nik Void prepared the pieces together in the studio and then played them live on the day. No-one else had apparently heard the four tracks that made up their performance, but the prospect of witnessing a collaboration between one half of Throbbing Gristle teaming up with Factory Floor‘s Void had people being turned away at the door. Transverse, according to the Mute spiel, is one of a number of concert recordings from Short Circuit being prepared for release.

The first thing that grabs you about Transverse is the sleeve, a simple Bridget Riley-esque repeated monochrome pattern which appears to move as you tilt your head, and which really hurts your eyes if you stare at it too long. Simple is not a word you could use to describe the music contained on Transverse, however. Aiming for the complex end of the sonic spectrum, Transverse consists of four tracks of thudding, heavy, hypnotic ambience loaded with edgy sounds, dark tones and industrial style noise infiltration.

The central point of reference in each case is a deep, pulsing beat, not dissimilar from some of Orb’s most dub-esque soundscapes, that beat providing a consistent backdrop for the more challenging drones, squalls, yelps and clattering percussion that litter these tracks. At times barely-controlled bowed guitar feedback from Void drifts into view; at others Cosey Fanni Tutti moans wordlessly as though experiencing some sort of dark religious euphoria; at others snatches of words swing into view; at others, thick bass drones dominate; at others it feels like each track might just be a tweak of a dial away from complete overload and ear-shredding noise collapse.

Overall, the effect is exactly what you’d expect from this trio. Factory Floor have been heralded as taking Throbbing Gristle’s legacy and bringing that band’s name to a whole new audience, while Chris and Cosey have been toying with industrial clamour for decades. The four long pieces included here are detailed, intricate and confrontational all at the same time, particularly suited to those who need more angst and unpredictability in their deep listening soundscapes. Unlike most work of this nature, the fractured sounds and feedback bursts suggest that this should be listened to really loud, allowing the bass passages to have a similar, punishing effect on your body as that monochrome sleeve has on your eyes.

The LP + CD edition of Transverse includes an alternate version of the CD release, the four tracks being augmented by an additional track in the shape of ‘V4 Studio (Slap 1)’, a studio version of the final track played as part of the trio’s Short Circuit set. The studio version feels more playful than the version played live, reducing the prominence of the bass and eliminating a lot of the reverb and resonance inevitably presented on the Roundhouse performance version. Pre-ordering the album from Carter Tutti Void’s own Sandbag web store also meant you could get hold of an exclusive recording, ‘cruX’ which was delivered as a download on the day of release.

First posted 2012; edited 2018.

(c) 2018 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence.

Advertisements

Throbbing Gristle – Very Friendly / The First Annual Report (recorded 1975)

  
The material on what has been variously described as Very Friendly and The First Annual Report represent the first recordings that Throbbing Gristle made under that name in 1975, in the midst of their transition from the COUM Transmissions moniker in a concerted effort toward making music rather than more eclectic arty initiatives.

These so-called “wreckers of civilisation” – Genesis P-Orridge, Cosey Fanni Tutti, Chris Carter and the late Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson – were no strangers to controversy when they decided to focus on what became Throbbing Gristle. COUM, while including an element of sonic exploration, was fundamentally a multi-disciplinary project, with imagery and ideologies that were often challenging, even for the liberal approach often taken toward the arts during the Seventies. Throbbing Gristle extracted the confrontational artsy angle but focussed that around sound, developing an aesthetic that was contemporary with the genesis of punk but which split itself off in a uniquely devastating counterweight to the Transatlantic feedback loop between The Ramones and The Sex Pistols.

This so-called first annual report begins with an almost twenty minute dirge of sound that recounts, in blunt, detached detail, the Moors Murders of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. Gen’s narrative on ‘Very Friendly’ spares no detail, taking on the dispassionate delivery that Patrick Bateman would deploy over a decade later in Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho; no detail is spared, whether that be the detailing of various proclivities on the part of the victims or the brutal violence that Brady / Hindley wrought upon those individuals. Gen’s voice takes on a manic, almost excitable and aroused quality as the sonic backdrop begins to pick up the pace to reflect the executions, with jarring synths and fuzzed-up guitars delivering the requisite nightmarish atmosphere for the story.

By the conclusion of TG’s opening gambit, the group are dealing in mere atmospheres, Gen’s voice stuttering the words ‘there’s been a m-m-m-m-murder’ with layers of echo that almost suggests a dreamy, sedated otherworldliness, as if what just played out couldn’t possibly be true. For a lot of people the serial killer antics of Brady and Hindley were something that couldn’t be rationalised, while for others they were a numbing tragedy that cast a pall over the North of England.

The rest of the album takes the same sonic foundations – the same grainy texture and noisy, clamorous atmospheres – and skews them, sometimes finding Gen vocalising some weird lament (’10 Pence’), adding TV news reportage while guitars and freeform noise structures push the TG sound closer to The Velvet Underground’s ‘Black Angel Death Song’ (‘Whorls Of Sound’), or into intriguing synth shapes (‘Dead Bait’) that belong on a Clive Barker soundtrack.

Though nowhere near as devastatingly confrontational as the opener, the most interesting piece here is ‘Final Muzak’, which propels itself forth on a dense, churning, sub-motorik metallic groove that’s part rhythm and part bass sequence. Noises whine and drone continually over that jarring rhythm, cycling round in queasy loops that suggest this early attempt toward the disciplinarian approach that would become one of Throbbing Gristle’s signature motifs could have run on far longer than the mere five and a half minutes presented here.

Very Friendly / The First Annual Report has never officially been released, but it has been bootlegged plenty of times over the years, with the name varying according to the release. I bought a CD copy of this released by the Genetic Terrorists label, with the above sleeve image and the name Very Friendly from an HMV on Oxford Street in 1997, which lead me to believe it was perhaps more official than it actually was. The most recent release was in 2001 on the Yeaah! label. Quite why the band never saw fit to release the record officially via their own Industrial imprint is something of a mystery, but just another strange decision in the history of this most uncompromising of British groups.

(c) 2016 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

Industrial Soundtrack For The Urban Decay (Les Films Du Garage film, 2014)

Industrial Soundtrack For The Urban Decay logo

Industrial Soundtrack For The Urban Decay is a film by Amélie Ravalec and Travis Collins which will be released in late 2014.

The film charts the history and development of industrial music through the political, economic and urban upheaval experienced in late Seventies Europe and America through a series of interviews with the key individuals and groups that were at the forefront of this musical genre.

The film features interviews with many names familiar to Mute Records fans – Chris Carter, Cosey Fanni Tutti and Genesis Breyer P. Orridge from Throbbing Gristle, Boyd Rice, Graeme Revell, Stephen Mallinder from Cabaret Voltaire and other luminaries such as Test Dept, Hula and Z’Ev. The film promises to be one of the first, and certainly most comprehensive, surveys of a scene whose echoes can still be felt in the worlds of Factory Floor and noise protagonists like Cold Cave.

A trailer for Industrial Soundtrack For The Urban Decay can be viewed below. A Documentary Evidence interview with Ravalec and Collins, as well as a review of the film, will follow later in 2014.

For more information, a list of interviewees and a selection of industrial mixtapes (including one by electronic music stalwart and Simon Fisher Turner / Githead collaborator Robin ‘Scanner’ Rimbaud) head to industrialsoundtrack.com

(c) 2014 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

Throbbing Gristle, Village Underground 23/10/2010

Throbbing Gristle, Village Underground 23/10/2014 - photo source unknown

‘If you’re going to come to a Throbbing Gristle gig,’ said my friend Ian, ‘you have to expect it to be loud.’ He was gesturing in the direction of the couple next to us at their gig at the Village Underground on the Shoreditch / Hackney borders, both of whom had their fingers in their ears throughout the final song of their set.

It was a common sight. There were lots of earphones and earplugs, which we felt rather defeated the purpose. The point is that this was supposed to be confrontationally loud, because that’s what TG were always all about – confrontation. It was one of many observations made through the course of almost two hours of relentless and – mostly – structured noise. Other observations included Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson (in a kimono) looking a little like Harold Bishop, and Genesis Breyer P’Orridge looking like… well, we aren’t really sure what he looks like, but he’s certainly a lot shorter than I thought he’d be.

I’m writing this on a Jubilee Line Tube the day after; my ears are still ringing. But there is something about the noise of Tube trains on this particular line which provides a useful analogy for the majority of ‘songs’ last night – leaving the stations along the line the trains depart quietly until some sections of the tunnels where the noise levels rise quickly, swiftly becoming almost distressingly loud in their dense screeching and howling; like a gong softly hammered and then hit more forcefully, only put through a massive bank of distortion. Lots of the songs were like that last night – quiet, almost dark ambient at first then rising through waves of added ferocity to create a huge bed of noise that occasionally made the tendons in my neck vibrate. Beats were not eschewed, sometimes emerging as deep bassy throbs, sometimes rattling around like an old Cabaret Voltaire vintage drum machine.

New instruments were apparently being roadtested tonight. Chris Carter chimed what looked like small bells, while P’Orridge waved an iPhone about, coaxing feedback and tones from a white electric violin, at one point standing in front of it while it was resting on its stand and bowing it with two bows at the same time. Cosey Fanni Tutti played an electronic guitar, producing sparks of feedback, and switched to cornet for one track. At times the four of them were sat at their devices like online gamers. During the cacophonous final track of the main set, Christopherson put his fingers in his ears. It tells you it must have been loud if one of the band members had to block out the sound. By the end his eyes were closed and his head swaying from side to side, much as you’d expect to see someone absorbed rapturously in a piece of classical music.

The sound came to a juddering halt and they left the stage to applause marginally louder than the racket they’d just made. A few moments later Christopherson took the mic and advised that the band were ‘all feeling a little jetlagged so there’ll be no encore tonight’. This prompted boos from some quarters and half the audience departed, but, though it was delivered in an apologetic voice which hardly encapsulated rebellion, I almost saw in it the contrarian-ness, the punk spirit, of their earliest days. When they came back on, Christopherson muttering ‘Oh, go on then,’ like he was taking a proffered chocolate that he knew he probably shouldn’t take, it almost felt like baying to the pressure of the crowd, something they’d have never done back in the day. Luckily, the unashamed confrontation and aggression of ‘Discipline’ more than made up for the doubts, P’Orridge by this stage swigging from a glass of red wine and fending off a naked stagediver, taking the evening to a powerful close.

First published 2010; edited 2014

(c) 2014 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence
Note – the source of the accompanying photo is now unknown. I am happy to attribute the credit if the photographer can be identified.