Thursday, 23 June 2016

Psychic TV - Beyond thee Infinite Beat (1990)

I've been somewhat down on the Porridge from time to time, although not in a sexual sense, obviously - that would be grotesque. This comes in part from having been a massive squeeing Throbbing Gristle devotee back when they were still an actual group, first time around. I couldn't get enough. I even had - and still have - those obscure bootleg tapes that were doing the rounds back then, the formative Death Factory studio stuff with Albrecht D and so on; so I was pretty serious about my dedication to the Gristle is what I'm saying. For me, they were not merely some name I encountered twenty years later whilst watching a documentary about Depeche fucking Mode, you smell me?

The appeal of Throbbing Gristle was the bizarre, alien sounds, not quite musical in the traditional sense and yet holding one's attention just the same; and the unsettling subject matter, usually tied in with the slightly sinister appeal of Porridge's monologue. He had a fascinating voice and - to break it down to something which would make sense in a pub - some of that was because we were listening just to see what he would come out with next. So when Throbbing Gristle split and Porridge took to believing his own hype, and it emerged that he'd actually wanted to be Lou Reed all along or at least just a fairly interesting pop star, I personally felt somewhat let down. It transpired that those once surreally absorbing monologues weren't so much inspired as simply because he'd never worked out how to shut it off, and those occasionally terrifying and always fascinating alien soundtracks had been largely dependent on who he'd been stood next to at the time. That's how it looked to me.

I bought the first two Psychic TV albums on the days they came out, and sold both of them within a year or so. Not even the customarily talented Alex Ferguson could save Psychic TV from their Jim Jones figurehead. There were a few things here and there which sounded sort of okay - Unclean and maybe some of Those Who Do Not - but the good stuff always seemed to be an exception to the rule.

Then in the late eighties, Porridge discovered acid house and somehow decided that it was sort of what he'd been doing along, and I laughed so much that I went out and bought one. Specifically I bought a couple on the grounds of the records having found their way into a bargain bin with surprising haste - first Jack the Tab, then the amusingly named Tekno Acid Beat, and finally this one. Jack the Tab is actually great - possibly thanks to the involvement of Richard Norris of the Grid - although it bears so little resemblance to house music that it might as well have been an Art of Noise album.

Tekno Acid Beat is the sound of people who've worked out how to programme a reasonable impersonation of the extended part of a Blow Monkeys 12" because acid house is just a drum machine going bum-bum-bum innit and you have some samples over the top like a bloke from off the telly saying far out a few times and stuff like that - piece of piss, mate; with Porridge and pals all giving themselves special kids on the street names like DJ Doktor Megatrip spelled with an industrial k, firmly stamping the whole clueless enterprise as someone's dad wearing a baseball cap turned backwards whilst declaring that everything is cool. Even the cover looked cheap and nasty, a ludicrous Psychic TV skull with a smiley acid face and all the class of a seventies Top of the Pops album. Somehow I wanted to like it. I really did; but every time I slapped the disc on, the music was the same - something which sounded as though it had been knocked off in about forty minutes, start to finish.

I gather this one involved a few of the same people, but somehow it seemed more promising, with a much better cover plus it was only a couple of quid and I was amused by Porridge having suddenly taken to claiming to have almost formed a band with Ian Curtis of Joy Division; and you know what - it ain't bad!

Of course this is a remix album, a remix album of ravemaster mixes; because when you go to one of those raves with the kids there's usually a ravemaster in charge, yeah?


Anyway, being a remix album it's mostly instrumental, so not much in the way of Porridge wailing the usual stuff about how he sees you and he thinks you're very nice; and given my theory - which I should make clear really is just a theory - that Porridge is musically only ever as interesting as who he's stood next to at the time - I guess this one is mostly a Fred Gianelli album, possibly with some bits of Dave Ball thrown in; and given that Fred Gianelli seems to know what he's doing and has actually heard house music, this does at least sound like what it's trying to be. The beats are a little obvious, predicated on the idea that all house music is bass-hi-hat-snare-hi-hat and repeat for ten minutes, but beyond that it's surprisingly good. The bass works as bass should, there's plenty of space, and very little of the bleeding obvious - that Italo house piano that turned up on fucking everything for a while, for one example. Additionally, much of this record has an oddly sombre tone, in contrast to much house music of the time, and by association enough original design to suggest some work and thought went into the composition, as opposed to a process amounting to that'll do because all it ever needed to be was a sound in the background of a Porridge monologue.

Of course, I could be wrong, and the man himself may have had a major hand in why this is a great record; although I've just listened to Towards thee Infinite Beat on YouTube - the album of which this is a remix - and it's mostly business as usual so I suspect possibly not.

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