KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

Music

Meet Me on the Desertshore

by Chad Parkhill , December 11, 20123 Comments

 

Photo credit: -cp

It’s easy, and inaccurate, to reduce Throbbing Gristle to a band obsessed equally with sex and death; but that doesn’t mean that they weren’t obsessed with those very topics. Take the cover of their seminal 1979 album 20 Jazz Funk Greats: a lovely shot of the four members of the band on the heath at Beachy Head, Britain’s foremost suicide location. As for sex, that album includes the proto-techno track ‘Hot on the Heels of Love’, where Cosey Fanni Tutti pushes the human/machine coupling of Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’ and pushes them further into the cybernetic field—where Summer’s vocalisations sound like a performance of sex, Tutti’s insouciant moans sound, more shockingly, like sex itself. But their true obsession was the infinite, the inconceivable beyond to which both sex and death continually point.

For a band that was so preoccupied with endings and what lay beyond them, their own end was ignominiously swift. After breaking up in 1981, all four original members of the band — Chris Carter, Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson, Genesis P-Orridge and Cosey Fanni Tutti — reformed in 2004. They recorded two new albums in the following years and were at work on a third, a front-to-back cover of Nico’s celebrated 1970 album Desertshore. Then, in October 2010, P-Orridge refused to perform in the final dates of the band’s world tour. Carter, Christopherson and Tutti completed the tour under the name X-TG, and shortly thereafter — less than a month after P-Orridge broke with the group — Christopherson died in his sleep. Whatever plans the four members may have had to reconcile their differences, Throbbing Gristle was no more.

In the absence of Christopherson, and with P-Orridge remaining uncooperative, Carter and Tutti have set themselves up as the custodians of Throbbing Gristle’s legacy, remastering and reissuing five of the band’s albums last year. Desertshore (released with a companion disc entitled The Final Report) continues this work, albeit in a more involved way: the Desertshore recordings were nowhere near completed, after the band decided to scrap their first attempt at it. After Christopherson’s death, Carter and Tutti approached several vocalists that Christopherson had admired to help them complete the record. Armed with the original recordings, new recordings by Christopherson, and these guest vocal tracks, they set about synthesising a definitive release. This final version of Desertshore is therefore a unique document: it is a posthumous testament to the power and fruitfulness of a creative bond between three remarkable individuals.

The source material is, of course, an integral part of what makes X-TG’s Desertshore so affecting. Nico’s own Desertshore is a famously difficult album — full of long harmonium drones, plinking harpsichord, and raggedy strings courtesy of John Cale’s unorthodox arrangements — and one that feels glacially-paced, even though its eight tracks speed past in under half an hour. There’s a sparseness to the album quite in keeping with its title, which allows for moments of utter heartbreak and beauty. Indeed, it’s fair to say that X-TG’s Desertshore doesn’t quite have the impact of Nico’s original — but this is hardly a withering criticism, since both records have completely different aims.

The opener of X-TG’s Desertshore, ‘Janitor of Lunacy’, makes the differences between the two projects plain. Where the original is carried along in a gyre of harmonium tones, this version resonates with a low pulse augmented by chittering digital blips in the high end — one of Christopherson’s favourite tricks. Over the top of this chillingly perfect soundscape comes a career highlight of a vocal take, courtesy of Antony of Antony and the Johnsons. X-TG’s ‘Abschied’ sounds to my ears like a polished update of Horse Rotorvator-era Coil — the tinny military snare drums and clink of finger cymbals (or are they coins?) bring to mind both ‘Ostia (the Death of Pasolini)’ and its coda, ‘Herald’. Einstürzende Neubauten’s Blixa Bargeld adds an appropriate amount of Sturm und Drang to Nico’s German-language lyrics. As far as radical deconstructions go, ‘Le Petit Chevalier’ is unrecognisable — sung by film director Gaspar Noé, it’s as much of an auditory overload as his film Enter the Void is a visual one, Noé’s voice garbled beyond all recognisable humanity and intoning the threatening promise of the petit chevalier, ‘j’irai te visiter’ [‘I will visit you’]. Where Nico’s version of the song achieves its menacing effect by matching the lyrics with the singsong voice of her young child, X-TG’s version renders the voice of the song as pure, terrifying alterity.

My two favourite tracks from X-TG’s Desertshore are ‘The Falconer’ and ‘My Only Child’, and given the tenderness of the vocal takes, it comes as no surprise to find out they were delivered by two of Christopherson’s closest friends and collaborators. ‘The Falconer’ is delivered by Soft Cell’s Marc Almond, who has recorded with Christopherson’s post-Throbbing Gristle project Coil. The ubiquity of Soft Cell’s cover of ‘Tainted Love’ has rendered Almond’s voice unsurprising, but this track — where Almond double-tracks his voice an octave apart — restores its strangeness and beauty. The vocals on ‘My Only Child’ come courtesy of X-TG’s own Cosey Fanni Tutti, and speak of her own deep emotional connection to the late Christopherson. It’s hard not to listen to this song — originally written by Nico as a hymn to her only child, Ari Boulogne — without thinking of Tutti as a mother sending her child alone into the great beyond, full of sorrow that she cannot guide him. In many ways ‘My Only Child’ is the emotional crux of X-TG’s Desertshore — it appears early on Nico’s Desertshore, but X-TG’s is rearranged so ‘My Only Child’ is the penultimate track. Which leads us to the final track, and the sole original composition on the album, ‘Desertshores’. Against a spare backdrop of a simple piano figure and monastic chants, a succession of Christopherson’s friends and collaborators utter a single line: ‘meet me on the desertshore’. It’s a profound elegy for a man whose musical career plumbed the depths of sonic ugliness and tore at the very seams of music, always looking for ways to move ahead, leave behind the formulaic, and go beyond.

Chad Parkhill is a Melbourne-based writer. His published work includes music criticism, lifestyle and travel writing, academic pieces in philosophy and literary studies, and fiction.




  • http://www.bookcrossing.com/mybookshelf/exDxiiayjneZavala cpanel vps

    At this moment I am going to do my breakfast, after having my breakfast coming yet again to read further news.|

9780733633782

Kill Your Darlings

What We’re Reading: Readings staff share their July picks

Looking for a book recommendation? Staff from Readings bookshop share what they’ve been reading this month. Read more »

lead_960

James Tierney

I Call The Shots: The provocation of violent women

In a Western culture increasingly stripped of its old taboos, violent acts by women – real and imagined – still possess the genuine power to shock. Cultural representations of violent women can both affirm and react against the kind of pernicious questioning that posits women as fundamentally, and fatally, reactive. Read more »

9781925106510

Oliver Mol

July First Book Club: Read an excerpt from Oliver Mol’s Lion Attack!

At the Kill Your Darlings First Book Club event in July, Oliver Mol will discuss his debut memoir, Lion Attack!. Read an extract from this funny, energetic and original coming-of-age story, which interweaves stories from Oliver’s childhood in Texas and his young adulthood in Melbourne. Read more »

abortion

Rebecca Shaw

Choice Without Stigma: Dismantling the abortion taboo

Abortion is still illegal in the criminal code in Queensland – even in this, the Year of Our Beyoncé 2015. While women are unlikely to face practical obstacles to abortion due to the law, it can still cause isolation and unnecessary fear, and creates a stigma around the act. Read more »

17177200132_2383e88c36_k

Rebecca Shaw

Rage Against the Marriage: The inanity of same sex marriage debate in Australia

I am someone who is completely comfortable in my sexuality, and who classifies myself as the genus Lesbionisos. I am 100% certain that I am not abnormal, an abomination, or in any way inferior to heterosexual people. Sometimes I even secretly think non-heterosexuals might be superior. But I haven’t always been this assured. Read more »

clouds-of-sila-maria-1

Rebecca Shaw

The curse of the ‘gal pals’

As a well-known humourless, angry, hairy arm-pitted, feminist lesbian, I encounter daily issues that I can place on a scale from things that mildly irritate me all the way to things that completely offend me. Read more »

Zombies

Michelle Roger

It’s All Just Preparation for the Zombie Apocalypse

‘She’s just another Walking Dead hanger-on,’ I hear you say. Well, yes, I am partial to a bit of walker action. And yes, I may have entertained the odd erotic daydream about a crossbow carrying, scraggy-bearded redneck – but this is not where my zombie obsession began. Come gather around people. Hear my obsessive zombie-loving origin story. Read more »

tom-cruise-jack-reacher-premiere-postponed

Chris Somerville

A lit match in a box of wet dynamite: Tom Cruise is Jack Reacher

I first watched Jack Reacher a few years ago, in a spate of insomnia. The plot is a confused mess, both needlessly intricate and incredibly simple. I’m not going to go into it, mainly because I don’t actually know why the people in this movie do anything. Read more »

Partisan

Joanna Di Mattia

To experience the world with blinkers on: Ariel Kleiman’s Partisan

Partisan beautifully evokes that complex space between childhood and adulthood, when we start to question the worldview we have inherited – when we begin to see the world through our own eyes. It is both a coming-of-age story, and an innocence-coming-undone story. Read more »

3ab01d05-2590-4aa4-80f4-45fab0eccec4-2060x1236

Anwen Crawford

Heart of Darkness: UnREAL‘s ruthless reality

Everlasting, the show-within-a-show at the dark centre of new American television series UnREAL, is a fantasy blend of champagne cocktails, pool parties and true love. Everlasting is a Bachelor-style game show in which a dozen immaculately groomed women compete for a handsome millionaire husband, and its relationship to real life is, like any ‘reality’ show, non-existent. Nothing goes to air on Everlasting that has not been scripted, staged, and edited for maximum controversy. Read more »

Zombies

Michelle Roger

It’s All Just Preparation for the Zombie Apocalypse

‘She’s just another Walking Dead hanger-on,’ I hear you say. Well, yes, I am partial to a bit of walker action. And yes, I may have entertained the odd erotic daydream about a crossbow carrying, scraggy-bearded redneck – but this is not where my zombie obsession began. Come gather around people. Hear my obsessive zombie-loving origin story. Read more »

OITNB2

Anwen Crawford

Still in Prison: The limitations of Orange is the New Black

No, I haven’t binge-watched the entire new season of Orange Is The New Black in one sleepless, bleary-eyed frenzy. This season, the show’s third, doesn’t lend itself to that kind of viewing. The pace is slower, the cliff-hangers missing. Read more »

ss_8df8236403f5aad45eeedd33d2bd545e45435b39.1920x1080

Katie Williams

The More Things Change: Choice and consequence in Life is Strange

You can either be a benevolent hero or a monster, but few games deal with the multitudes contained by actual people. And what does it matter, anyway? There’s no such thing as regret when it comes to in-game decision-making – not when you can so easily restart the game to see what outcome will result from choosing Option B instead. Read more »

svfw crop

Katie Williams

Silicon Valley Fashion Week?: Fashion, technology, and wearability

Last week saw the inaugural Silicon Valley Fashion Week? (yes, with a question mark) unfold in San Francisco. The show promised ‘drones, robots, and mad inventions’, and tickets sold out swiftly; attendees were clearly eager to see more inventive clothing in this heartland of nerds. Read more »

AnimalCrossing copy

Katie Williams

Digging For Meaning in Utopia: Storytelling in Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing is a series of games in which – as my partner once remarked incredulously – ‘nothing ever happens.’ In its latest incarnation, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, you become the unwitting mayor of a town populated by anthropomorphic, bipedal animals. Read more »

2015GISELLE_Artists of The Australian Ballet. PhotoJeffBusby

Jane Howard

The Beautiful and the Dated: Australian Ballet’s Giselle

The weight of history sits heavily on the Australian Ballet’s Giselle. One of the most enduringly popular ballets from the romantic period, there is much to delight in its presence on stage and its lasting lineage. But 175 years after its debut, in a production that premiered 30 years ago, the sheen of Giselle has been dulled. Read more »

CrawlMeBlood_20150607_261_LoRes copy

Jane Howard

Adhocracy: Lifting the curtain on the creative process

Every June long weekend I wrap myself up in several extra layers and make my way to the Waterside Worker’s Hall in Port Adelaide for Adhocracy, Vitalstatistix’s annual hothouse that brings together artists from around the country for a weekend of creative development. Read more »

Orlando #2 - THE RABBLE

Jane Howard

This Is a Story of Artistic Excellence

This is a story of the first four plays I saw at Malthouse Theatre. It’s a story that can only continue as long as support for independent artists continues; it’s a story that can only keep growing as long as support for independent artists grows. It’s a story of where artistic excellence comes from, and how we get to see it on our main stages. Read more »