Throbbing Gristle - 2nd annual report

This is where it all began. The second you push the play button you are witnessing the birth of industrial music. From the strange warped 70s synth noise to the bizarre and disturbing lyrics you know this is it. Throbbing gristle mutated from the taboo breaking art terrorist group COUM transmissions first burst onto an unsuspecting British public at the ICA gallery in London as part of the infamous Prostitution exhibition. For the next five years they would tread an untouched uncompromising path through late 70s early 80s Britannia, inspiring a whole new form of music and perhaps even more important , that music’s associated culture. But this is where it all began, here with an album of mostly live tracks and the bands first single United. The first thing to note is that this is 1976/77 and the gigs were recorded on handheld tape recorders and then spliced together. So the sound quality is more than a little pants. This said however at the right volume (e.g. loud) the magic and confrontational quality of this groups live act comes through. Tracks like Slug Bait - at the ICA and Maggot Death - at the Rat club have a genuine menace despite the shoddy recording levels. It’s a totally alien sounding landscape. Bares virtually no resemblance to modern industrial music and is at best disjointed and at worst a squalling mass of electronics and raging guitar noise. TG music was always improvised with common elements spliced and diced and reinterpreted according to the venue and the mood of the performers. Genesis P Orridge’s lyrics and delivery really are a revelation. Most dealing with serial killers (before it became Cliché) and socio political commentary. The tape manipulations and jarring rudimentary electronics complete the atmosphere along with the occasional guitar squall from Cosey Fanni Tutti. Probably the albums highlight is the studio version of Maggot death all disjointed electronics and tape manipulations that leads into the bass heavy synth sequence of Maggot death live at Brighton. The effect is truly unnerving. It’s at these moments that you can see why they were once dubbed the wreckers of civilisation. The album also includes “After Cease to exist” an improvised ambient sounding studio piece soundtracking a typically extreme COUM film, and the two tracks from the United 7” single. United being a basic 70s style electro track with sequenced rhythm and beats. Nice lyrics from Gen quoting Crowley’s book of the law, “love is the law, love is the law, United, United”. The B side Zyclon B Zombie is a bit of an oppressive mass of grinding bass and distorted vocals. Apparently this song was inspired by Genesis’s idea of the ultimate glue sniffing punk trying to out do his mate by sniffing Zyclon B, an example of total pointless peer led baiting of extremity that ran through the punk scene. To sum up, this is simply essential, whether a true industrial fan or just a casual record buyer, the sounds on this disk are the sounds of history, and like TGs career a history of the times that they lived in.