Reading Drew Daniels’ contribution to the 33 1/3 series about 20 Jazz Funk Greats has made me hungrier for the Gristle, at all levels, the band are not so much dissected as teased into revealing their secrets, songs not displayed in the cold table of the deconstructionist butcher but beheld between admiration and doubt as they float like garish and toxic butterflies in the dark beautiful miasma where they exist, sounds, associations, influences, memories and perhaps a few lies all part of the dark brew which has infected us. ‘A chance to cut is a chance to cure’, but if healing is impossible, and even if it was possible, undesirable, then cutting is useless, let Throbbing Gristle continue advancing whole in the path of enlightened sickness, if you want a map for the shadowy provinces they built with resolute uncompromising purpose, then this book should be perfect for you.
Walkabout doesn’t go around, it goes up, every tone therein contained a crystal step in an ascension towards a place of blinding light towards which you climb following the spell of etheric fairies, or that is what you think, in a perverse world of antirrational geometry where everything is upside down, and what is upside down is right, imagine Escherian architectures as a reflection of Crowley’s famous motto, then this wonderful sketch by Chris Carter might well be the grammar of a demonic covenant which is signed by the listening. And you are smiling but condemned. Do not worry, and flip the crystal ball again, there is no up or down, only the extreme of its circumference, Throbbing Gristle’s final destination regardless of the path they decide to follow.
‘Exotica’ is Throbbing Gristle’s crippled tribute to the man who established the blueprints of what would become lounge music. Many of us might well think of Lounge as the most banal of genres, a tepid wallpaper for the exercise of jet-set fantasies full of that ennui that comes from knowing that no matter where you are you can’t escape from yourself. On the other hand, Genesis P-Orridge loves Martin Denny’s music, which he describes as ‘staggering’ and ‘chaotic’, I listen to Denny’s synthesiser version of Quiet Village and I have to agree, there is definitely a creepy element in the vibes of this music, like the decadent shadows projected by the white villas of J.G. Ballard’s Cocaine Nights, this is a march for bloated automatons caught in the corrupted machinery of leisure, Throbbing Gristle’s appreciation another example of the way in which they see through the commercial and social veils which disguise the horrors surrounding us.
Of course, Quiet Village took the utopian road, and the outcome were marvels.
Hot on the Heels of Love defines mutant dance with its infirm progression through the shadowy corners of the discotheque, beware, there be monsters here, and the whip keeps cracking. This stylistic ambush is not random, as you might know Cosey Fanni Tutti was a professional stripper, and Sylvester’s ‘You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)’ was one of her ‘topless’ tracks. The anti-rational, purely percussive nature of primeval disco must have also appealed to a wild bunch rather enamoured with the enlightening possibilities of repetition and drone.
Exhibit 1- ‘Do You Wanna Funk’, a garish hi-energy mastodon that would in principle seem to be the antithesis to Throbbing Gristle’s bleak industrial landscapes. I am not so sure, to be fair, there is an intensity in Sylvester’s hedonism, a persuasive intent in his lyrics, as he pounds you into submission with frantic conga and murderously jacking hand-claps, drawing improbable lines of connection with the poisonous insistence of Throbbing Gristle’s pervy adventures, and the overwhelming nature of their aural blitzkrieg.