Carter Tutti Void
The resurrection and eventual implosion of Throbbing Gristle, followed by the untimely death of Peter Christopherson, and the pseudo-retirement of Genesis P Orridge has left Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti as stewards of capital-I Industrial. It’s fitting than that the release of Transverse, a recording of a (mostly) live collaboration between the first couple of British experimental electronics and Factory Floor’s Nik Void is indefinably but also unmistakeably the most classically industrial thing I’ve heard in years. It’s also a terrific record, one that evokes the genre’s past while inevitably pushing outward beyond it, less a move forward than an engulfing and expansive take on it in its most enveloping form.
Each of the five tracks on Transverse (labeled “V1” through “V4” with the fifth being a studio take on the latter) is built from the ground up, beginning with drums and bass provided by Chris Carter’s electronics. Regardless of anything else that happens on the record, that central groove is omnipresent, mutating slightly but never leaving the center of each 10 minute track. Over top Tutti and Void provide a variety of improvised vocal and guitar noises, neither in anything resembling the conventional. If an album of live improvisations in that vein sounds impenetrable, well, it’s because it is. That said, half the magic of listening to the record is its obtuseness, and in its defiance of deconstruction: even after repeat sittings I find it difficult to separate the tracks from one another on an intellectual level. This is music that is felt more than listened to. Far from the conceptual wanking endemic to so many schools of experimental music, Void, Tutti and Carter let the music (such as it is) speak for itself, and what it says is tense, primal, and incredibly difficult to disregard. For all of its ability to lull the listener with repetition, it’s impossible to ignore when it’s playing.
The fact that makes all of this so remarkable is that it’s literally a live record, put to tape at Mute’s Short Circuit festival. In some ways that’s no surprise: Chris Carter’s recent remaster of Throbbing Gristle’s superlative Heathen Earth (as well as the endless live material included with the rest of the TG reissue series) stands as a testament to his and his partner’s proficiency on stage. Transverse doesn’t ever strive for the confrontational. Even when “V2” and “V3” veer towards waves of distorted and reverbed noise that vaguely recall TG’s “The Old Man Smiled”, C&C’s own early work Trance remains a more valid touchpoint, never allowing the rhythm to be subsumed by dissonance. It’s the restraint apparent in the way Void and Cosey play off of the relentless beat that renders each movement tenser and more claustrophobic, always denying release until the applause at the end of each track jolts the listener free.
I hope that regular readers of this site will understand that the praise showered on this album doesn’t stem from an arbitrary value placed on the constituents of “real” industrial music. Inasmuch as what we elect to cover on I Die: You Die is a reflection of the living legacy of artists like Chris & Cosey, and excitement over what contemporary musicians like Void are doing, it’s almost impossible to keep those thoughts in mind when actually consuming Transverse. It’s a singular effort created in collaboration by artists who know exactly how to draw in the ear and mind while directly engaging neither. Even minus the context of who created it, it’s the almost perversely oblique nature of it’s presentation that makes it so compulsively listenable. Subtle, primal, and ultimately just fantastic.