Wednesday, 12 December 2018

X-TG - Desertshore / The Final Report (2012)

I'm assuming we all know how this came to be. Throbbing Gristle reformed, recorded a surprisingly decent album and played a few pop concerts, and then split because everyone was angry at Porridge for having all of the talent and all of the really brilliant ideas and making the rest of them look bad, or summink.

Chris, Cosey and Peter Christopherson opted to carry on regardless seeing as it had actually turned out to be fun making music without Porridge endlessly subverting everything in a playful and mischievous way - a strategy which doubtless served him well in the composition of weird and challenging music, but probably got a bit annoying whenever they sent him down the shop for a few sandwiches and a family size bottle of pop and he came back with a bottle of families or a sandwich of bottles*, or something else which flew in the face of expectation with equivalent velocity. Christopherson died unexpectedly in 2010, leaving unfinished the project which the three of them had been working on as X-TG - a cover of Nico's Desertshore album; and here it is, brought to completion by Chris, Cosey and others with a second disc of what I assume to have been the final recordings made by the three of them.

I'm afraid I've never been too bothered about the Velvet Underground or Nico and have no idea what the original album sounded like, although I assume it probably sounded fairly different to this interpretation, mainly because this interpretation sounds very much like Throbbing Gristle.

I'm still reeling from the fact of Part Two having sounded like Throbbing Gristle without any obvious attempt to trade on former glories, a continuation rather than a revival. Desertshore and The Final Report forge ahead in the same general direction, reminding us that for something apparently so reliant on chance and improvisation, Gristle had a highly distinctive, even unique sound. The biological chug is unmistakeable, as are all those other noises twisting and turning through the mix, and even the token bit of glockenspiel - or whatever it is - somehow manages to sound like the work of the same people who recorded Journey Through a Body. Taken as a whole, Porridge seems conspicuously absent from the two albums - which is a surprise. There was probably a little too much of him on Part Two, but I guess his presence lent just enough piss and vinegar to the wine to make for a pleasing contrast, even when he managed to keep his mouth shut. So some of this, particularly Final Report, has a little of the same mood as those early, mostly instrumental Death Factory tapes which did the rounds back in the day, which therefore wraps everything up with a certain symmetry in a fairly satisfying way.

Desertshore features guest vocalists, and their presence seems initially incongruous - or did to me - possibly simply because it isn't Porridge talking about having a wank or whatever; but the more you play the record, the more it gels, with contributions from Blixa Bargeld and Gaspar Noé working particularly well. I still don't get the appeal of Antony Hegarty, whose singing sounds like an operatic version of the voice comedians used to do when impersonating John Major, but maybe it's just me; and her warbling fits the music fairly well.

So with this one it seems that the mission really has been terminated, and with no backsies this time; which is a sadder thought than I would have expected thanks to the warmth, care and attention which so obviously went into the making of this record. Even with their final encore, they were still full of surprises, still breaking new ground.

*: This example should probably be spelt sandwich ov bottles, but isn't because I'm a fully grown man.

No comments:

Post a Comment