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.|

9780374175443

Kill Your Darlings

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

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

9781926428239

Abigail Ulman

Cold Feet and Hot Little Hands: Abigail Ulman on writing – and not writing – her first book

Post-book deal, every time I sat down to try to write something, I felt paralysed by some kind of literary stage fright. I had shown my work to other people before – for writing workshops, and submissions to literary journals and competitions – but I had never before written a story while thinking This story is going to be published in a book. Or, more accurately, This story idea is nowhere near good enough to be published in a book. Read more »

9781926428239

Sian Campbell

Girlhood and The Woman-Child in Abigail Ulman’s Hot Little Hands

Each of the stories in Hot Little Hands navigates girlhood in some way, from the lives of high school-age teenagers to those of young twentysomething women. ‘Girl things’ such as horse camp, gymnastics, feminised bodies, clothing, periods, crushes, yoga and gossip weave through the fabric of the text. Though the subject matter is often adult – the girls of Hot Little Hands navigate abortion, sex trafficking, young motherhood, drugs, and deportation – the girls themselves are not… even when they technically are. Read more »

amy-schumer

Rebecca Shaw

Amy Schumer and the equal right to be funny

I don’t think men should be banned from making jokes about contentious subjects. I am of the belief that anything can and should be laughed about, and if done right, it can be beneficial. But more often, women are doing it right, and women are doing it better. Read more »

womens-home-companion

Kate Iselin

Trivial Pursuits: The media and ‘women’s interests’

Women, especially in public life, exist as a part of men’s worlds – a big part, sure – but still a part. Even as women become more vocal in demanding accurate and respectful representation, we are kept at arms length by a mainstream media which struggles to catch up. Read more »

SGbTsPQ

Rebecca Shaw

Command and Control: Trophy daughters and overprotective dads

There is no doubt that an overprotective parent is better than a parent who couldn’t care less what their child gets up to. And there is no doubt that most overprotective mums and dads are well-meaning. But paternal ‘protectiveness’ shticks often boil down to fathers not wanting their daughters to have sex, and by extension, get pregnant. 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 »

kstew

Joanna di Mattia

Kristen Stewart Through the Looking-Glass

Kristen Stewart is an actress who has been criticised, maligned even, for an acting style that transmits from set to screen as sullen, adolescent, wooden, blank, fidgety and inelegant. But perhaps she’s an actress concerned with authenticity, and the defining feature of her style is to show us herself by appearing like she’s not acting at all. Read more »

it-follows-4

Anwen Crawford

Behind You: The subtler horror of It Follows

I don’t watch many horror films. Lifelong victim of an overactive and slightly morbid imagination, I regularly envisage disasters, natural or otherwise, that might befall me, without requiring the added stimulus of cinema. Read more »

6428590-3x2-700x467

Anwen Crawford

Nothing Is Sacred: How 8MMM Aboriginal Radio is having the last laugh

8MMM Aboriginal Radio is a situation comedy in which an Indigenous woman always has the last laugh. That makes it a rarity on Australian television. What’s more, it’s funny, which too few sitcoms, local or otherwise, ever are. Read more »

Struggle+Street+KEY+IMAGE

Anwen Crawford

Shame and Stigma on Struggle Street

Struggle Street framed poverty as a combination of genetic inheritance and natural disaster – a barrier to be overcome only through ceaseless positive effort. Those who sabotage themselves through bad choices are therefore fair targets for our scorn, while those who gain employment or remain sober deserve praise for overcoming the odds. The deserving and undeserving poor, in other words. What an old story. Read more »

TheSlap_Show

Genevieve Wood

The Slap: What’s lost when a cricket bat becomes a baseball bat?

‘A cricket bat wouldn’t make sense in an American context’, says Tony Ayres, executive producer of the US adaptation of Christos Tsiolkas’ The Slap. He’s right, of course – it wouldn’t. But when, in US playwright Jon Robin Baitz’s version, the eponymous slap occurs as the result of a swinging baseball bat, something’s not quite right. 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 »

DUKMRUTRHLU31425064919799

Katie Williams

The Currency of Games: The real world cost of in-game purchases

A new item introduced in World of Warcraft lets players purchase a month of playing time for the real-life price of $20, which they can then sell to other players in-game in exchange for virtual currency. It’s an exchange of real money for a virtual currency that has in-game value but none in the physical, ‘real’ world – and it makes me incredibly uneasy. Read more »

16741557134_5206bec0cd_k

Jane Howard

Dark Side of the Rainbow: Belvoir St Theatre’s The Wizard of Oz

This production of The Wizard of Oz is ‘after L Frank Baum’: after his book, after the 1939 film, and after our collective memories of both. Fragmented, non-narrative, and largely wordless, it relies on our existing knowledge of the text to build a work of images and emotion, and in doing so demands an extreme generosity from the audience. Read more »

Arts House_Image_10c_Oedipus Schmoedipus (post)_Credit – Ellis Parrinder copy

Jane Howard

A Case for Diversity in Theatre

Attracting different audiences to the theatre is about many things. It’s about accessibility for people without high disposable incomes, but it’s also about marketing and publicity; about creating venues which are physically accessible for people with disabilities; and about ensuring the performers on stage are as diverse as we want their audiences to be. Read more »

2909252617_1f456d0c81_b

Jane Howard

A Working-Class Mythology: Ironing boards at the theatre

In theatre, there is perhaps no prop piece more mythologised than the ironing board, which came to signify the birth of contemporary British theatre. Read more »