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Diary given away
Throbbing Gristle - Butler's Wharf, London
A grey winter's afternoon amongst the towering and decaying Thameside wharves seems a fitting venue for Throbbing Gristle to play. They chose Butler's Wharf on the south side of the river for their recent concert, playing on a low stage on the third floor using two simple fluorescent lights for illumination.
The concert opened with a tape of the archetypal funk/disco muzak over which an echoed female voice went explicitly through the tract covered by the Donna Summer - 'Love To Love You' corpus of recordings. As the tape reached its conclusion Cosey Fanni Tutti and Peter Christopherson picked up electric cornets and sent long, ringing notes out into the room, echoed and delayed to build up into broad streaks of sound. Throbbing Gristle's use of brass in this way is interesting in that it adds a contrasting element to their instrumental armoury. It has a bright, clear quality which they exploit to the full in sharp contrast to the dense, muddy frequently disturbing textures which they more habitually work. It was these latter qualities which supplanted those of the brass work.
As Cosey switched to guitar and Peter to his custom-made multi-cassette player and keyboard, Genesis P-Orridge added bass and Chris Carter synthesiser to create a murky abrasive music that jarred and provoked. The individual constituents become subordinate to the whole: distorted and treated vocals (live, delayed and - I believe - taped) blurred into stabbed keyboard rhythms or wedges of bass and guitar colour driven deep into the heart of the sound. Most of the traditional assumptions of the rock 'n' roll format are discarded (overt rhythm and melody, the voice mixed to the fore, for example) but that is not to say that the final results are formless or unfocussed.
After a brief interlude composed solely of voices, a synthesiser rhythm was set up and Cosey returned to the cornet. Her soaring notes cut across the top of the rhythm (which was doubly reinforced by Genesis' bass work) to establish a good humoured and bouncing soundscape through which dark clouds of tapes, bass and more synthesiser swept. They were only really able to impose their character on Genesis' bass postscript after he concert playing had stuttered to a halt. Through all this the benign voice of a hypnotist was heard gradually awakening us from our trance, telling us that we could learn to relax in this way and - by now the musicians had finished and the tape of the voice was working solo - that we'd enjoyed the experience.
Taken individually, the elements from which Throbbing Gristle construct their music are often surprisingly simple. Yet through the skillful deployment of these elements and the technology available to them they are able to create a unique music. Their willful dismissal of traditional musical rules no doubt alienates a large number of people. However, for those prepared to listen, they are capable - as this concert clearly demonstrated - of producing a strong and powerful music
Genesis P-Orridge (bass): Roland bass, Morley fuzz-wah, Simms Watts echo, Roland Studio Bass 100 combo.
Cosey Fanni Tutti (cornet and guitar): Singha cornet, guitar, HH echo, Roland flanger, customised pedals and Roland Jazz Chorus 120 combo.
Peter Christopherson (Tapes, keyboard, cornet): Customised multi-cassette keyboard deck, Corton cornet, Roland Jazz Chorus 120 combo.
Chris Carter (synthesisers): Roland SH1 & SH5 synthesisers, 2 cassette decks, 2 Prokit mixers, Roland Space Echo, WEM Copycat.
Musicians Only, 12 January 1980