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THROBBING GRISTLE, "NOW"

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Now represents the first new music recorded by Throbbing Gristle in over two decades. It was available in a limited edition of 500 CDs and LPs at the recent live recording session event in London, which was done in lieu of the cancelled RE~TG weekend festival. The disc consists of four lengthy tracks, which appear in shortened form on the LP. It's fascinating to hear new material by TG, after twenty years of listening to each member's musical evolution with their own projects—Chris and Cosey, Psychic TV and Coil. It is immediately apparent listening to Now that each member has brought more experience and maturity to the table, and are not content merely to rehash or resurrect the familiar old strategies of the original incarnation of TG. In fact, Now fits quite nicely into the current underground scene. The music is not miles away from the new wave of young, TG-influenced acts like Black Dice and Wolf Eyes. "X-Ray" rides in on a cold tractor beam, canceling all thought with its refrigerator drones and oscillating distortion. It's somewhat similar to early TG material, but it's also refreshingly new, taking in all of the developments in noise, experimental and industrial music in the last 20 years. "Splitting Sky" is my favorite of the new tracks, a 12-minute dub-influenced journey into the dark heart of electro, with Genesis providing gravelly, mutated vocals. The song invokes the looming figure of Detroit Techno, viewed through the transgressive lens of four of the most talented luminaries of underground music and culture. Chris, Cosey, Peter and Genesis seem willing to confront their legendary status head-on, and confound any expectations or controversy that their reunion may have sparked off. Some may be disappointed by the relative tameness of the material on Now, but could anyone really have expected them to recapture the fierce, political aggression of their earlier material? That might have been a little calculated and pathetic coming from a group of musicians now pushing 50. It's tempting to hear echoes of recent Coil and Chris and Cosey (or Carter-Tutti?) music in the mix on Now, and it's certainly not an unwarranted comparison, considering the hallucinogenic, distended disco-dub of "Splitting Sky" and the atmospheric jazz of "Almost Like This." The stand-up bass and xylophone, and Genesis' tortured croon on "Almost Like This" delivers on the promise of their parody of Easy Listening LPs on the 20 Jazz Funk Greats sleeve. The fourth track, "How Do You Deal?" comes the closest to recreating the dark urgency of early TG live performances, with its distorted basslines and metallic guitar swipes, Genesis screaming: "Life is a vacuum pump/Strangeness/Sucking in/Wasted time/You can't win." This dystopian negativity is a refreshing salve to the hokey personal-empowerment sermons that Genesis has been boring us with for the past twenty years. The song builds to a series of noisy, apocalyptic crescendos that each try to outdo the last for sheer industrial-strength aggression. Whether or where exactly Now fits into the TG canon could be discussed and argued at length, but in the meantime, I'm going to enjoy listening to it. It's a truly impressive record by a band that until recently seemed like the least likely candidates for a reunion. 

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Last Updated on Monday, 29 August 2005 11:19  


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