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.

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Various Artists – The Tyranny Of The Beat (The Grey Area Of Mute album, 1991)

Various Artists 'The Tyranny Of The Beat - Original Soundtracks From The Grey Area' CD artwork

the grey area of mute | cd agrey1 | 1991

The Tyranny Of The Beat – Original Soundtracks From The Grey Area was a 1991 compilation issued by Mute to showcase releases from its Grey Area sub-label. The Grey Area specialised in reissuing the back catalogues of Cabaret Voltaire (their Rough Trade releases), Can, Throbbing Gristle (plus various Industrial Records acolytes), Graeme Revell‘s SPK and many others. The label also became home to early albums by artists that had been signed to Mute, such as Nick Cave‘s pre-Birthday Party band The Boys Next Door, D.A.F., Wire and Einstürzende Neubauten.

The reissue programme conducted by Mute through The Grey Area inevitably produced a varied counterpoint to the releases issued through the main Mute imprint, through Paul Smith‘s hugely diverse Blast First (which itself, at times, also reissued plenty of older material) and NovaMute. Alongside The Fine Line, specialising predominantly in soundtracks for TV, film and theatre, The Grey Area represented a hugely interesting opportunity to hear some out-of-print releases on CD for the first time.

There days, at least nominally, The Grey Area no longer exists. Can reissues have never officially carried the logo, and whilst Mute remains the custodian of the seminal Cologne unit’s back catalogue, it is done in partnership with Can’s own Spoon imprint; Cabaret Voltaire’s latest reissue programme through Mute is done through the main label and consequently all releases now carry stumm catalogue codes, and Throbbing Gristle effectively bought back their work to reopen the doors of Industrial Records. The opportunity to reinvigorate The Grey Area upon securing the opportunity to reissue the Swans back catalogue in 2014, alongside the Cabs programme, feels like something of a missed opportunity.

The Tyranny Of The Beat then serves as a useful overview of what The Grey Area were up to at this point in the early Nineties. A small four-page flyer inside the sleeve highlighted just how comprehensive the reissue programme undertaken by Mute was through the sub-label – after all, they were effectively re-releasing whole or sizeable elements of back catalogues, not sporadic releases. The flyer also included some items that were planned for releases but which have never materialised – chief among these was the Robert Rental / The Normal live album recorded at West Runton, which Rough Trade had released in 1980 as a one-sided LP.

The sleeve also features liner notes from Biba Kopf, famed NME journalist and currently (under his real name Chris Bohn) the editor of The Wire. Kopf also wrote the copy for the Documentary Evidence brochure which inspired this site.

The breadth of music included in sampler form on The Tyranny Of The Beat is impressive, taking in the grubby pulse of TG’s live track ‘See You Are’, their Industrial signees Monte Cazazza with the truly horrible ‘Candyman’, a bit of early electro from the Cabs, the detached punk of Swell Maps‘ brilliant ‘Midget Submarines’, the similarly aquatic ‘Our Swimmer’ by Wire (still one of their best Seventies pieces), a truly ethereal piece by Wire’s Bruce Gilbert / Graham Lewis as Dome with A.C. Marias and the still-devastating Rowland S. Howard-penned ‘Shivers’ by The Boys Next Door. Can’s ‘Oh Yeah’ – one of Daniel Miller‘s personal favourite tracks – provides a rhythmic counterweight to the urgent mechanical production-line beats of Neubauten’s ‘Tanz Debil’ and Die Krupps‘s ‘Wahre Arbeit, Whare Lohn’. Dark relief comes in the form of SPK’s ‘In Flagrante Delicto’, a track which suggests Graeme Revell was always destined to compose the scores for spooky, suspense-filled films like The Craft.

Like a lot of sampler albums, The Tyranny Of The Beat can sound a little uneven, and whilst a lot of these bands were part of common scenes – industrial, punk, the terribly-named Krautrock – it would have been a pretty weird festival if this was the line-up.

Kopf’s liner notes deserve a mention, if only for the way that he positions the concept of a grey area as a place that people run to for escape or as a means of consciously assaulting musical norms, a place that both acted as a reaction against the regimentation of beats and simultaneously gave birth to the repetitive rhythms of techno. ‘In The Grey Area you get the sense of limits being pushed up against and breached,’ he says, and even now, listening to Genesis P. Orridge deliver a maniacal vocal over corruscating waves of sinister noise from a distance of thirty-five years, or Monte Cazazza’s detached multi-channel reportage of a serial killer’s victims and the nauseatingly vivid listing of the savagery he put those victims through, you can see exactly where Kopf was coming from.

Track listing:

cd:
1. SPK ‘In Flagrante Delicto’
2. Throbbing Gristle ‘See You Are (Live, The Factory July 1979)’
3. Cabaret Voltaire ‘Automotivation’
4. Chris Carter ‘Solidit (Edit)’
5. Die Krupps ‘Wahre Arbeit, Wahre Lohn’
6. D.A.F. ‘Co Co Pina’
7. Einstürzende Neubauten ‘Tanz Debil’
8. NON ‘Cruenta Voluptas’
9. Can ‘Oh Yeah’
10. Wire ‘Our Swimmer (Live, Notre Dame Hall July 1979)’
11. Swell Maps ‘Midget Submarines’
12. The Boys Next Door ‘Shivers’
13. Dome ‘Cruel When Complete’
14. Monte Cazazza ‘Candyman’
15. The Hafler Trio ‘A Thirsty Fish / The Dirty Fire’

(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.