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Sunday, 9 January 2011

Review: Throbbing Gristle - Journey Through A Body (Released 1982 on the Walter Ulbricht Schallfolien label)

Let's open the cafe with this review which I first posted up on the Head Heritage website in april 2004


Catholick Sex (For Paula)
Exotic Functions
Violencia (The Bullet)
Birth And Death/Oltre La Morte

This 'was' the last studio recording by TG, recorded in Rome at RAI Studios in March 1981, just two months before the "mission" was "terminated" with their last live outings in California.

After receiving my postcard stating 'The Mission Is Terminated' in the first quarter of 1981 and reading from cover to cover- Rock Wilson's 'Special Music Edition' issue of his fetish fanzine- "Apocalypso-A-Go Go"- devoted to TG clippings, Photos, Collages and "tasty Cosey pics", I wondered as to what was going to happen next, where would these strange misfits venture off to ??
As there always was, concerning TG at the time of their (first) existence, word of mouth, connections with the more underground of 'zines, always having snippets of info (no internet in them days, eee by gum), whispers of Gen and Sleazy going into video and television, Chris and Cosey rumoured to be doing more 'conventional' music- well, for them at least.

I received this last TG offering straight from their offices in Martello Street via their 'fanbase mail order outlet'.
That alone would make it feel a bit special without even hearing it .

This album is a pointer to the future occupations of P-Orridge and Christopherson, not to say that Carter and Fanni Tutti don't have an input, they most certainly contribute, but it is a bit of a 'template of the temple' so to speak. But not without that special TG feel.

Side One has two tracks "Medicine" and "Catholic Sex (For Paula)".
"Medicine" begins with a high-pitched note as we enter a sound scenario which is like being in the operating theatre.
You can hear radio voices reporting about transplants, slowed down and phased Tapes of heavy-breathing, distant mutant baby groans, the ominous clatter of surgical equipment, nurses chattering while they perform their duties "that's really good", "yeah it's....coming through", "39 C......quite good"- this is REAL Queasy Listening, you can also hear one of those rubber things (sorry I'm no medic) pumping and pumping- all in a strangely mellow way.
Is it a birth ? Is it a death ?
No... it's TG alright.

Towards the end of this 15 minute 'operation', you get a whiff of Cosey's trademark slide induced sonics from her Guitar, as it drifts into "Catholick Sex"- a familiar type bubble Synth pulse with the processed Cornets circling the scene while the sound of a girl 'enjoying herself' (Paula P. perhaps ?) is merged in.
Again, very mellow, which suits and sets the tone for Gen's spoken sigils- "I couldn't help but touch her a monastry", "angels of lust and catholick sex...stroking with their fingers and flesh", -when this is spoken, the backing is faded out to some very melancholy and psalm-like organ chords before the backing returns and the Synth spurts to it's coda. Putting the heavy sexually-themed content aside (or indeed not), this IS a very religious sounding piece of music.

Side Two is made up of three tracks.
The first, "Exotic Functions" is like a pastiche of Martin Denny with Hand Drums, Tuned Percussives, Jungle calls and Acoustic Piano, you can almost touch the moist leaves in this garden of unearthly delights.

A jolly little interlude. But not for long. "Violencia" is here.
Cosey and Gen's Guitars rasp and scrape, Carter sends short blocks of pink noise and serrated spits of Synth out while vocal sounds, a girl struggling, the click of a gun loading, yelps and all manner of aural nerve ends change the picture, whilst the lone piano laments.

Then as we come to the last track "Oltre La Morte/Birth And Death", it's as if you are viewing the aftermath of the carnage of the once perfect world after the invaders have left.
Two Pianos lament while further sounds from the scraped Piano strings add an odd menace to the melancholy phrases.

What's astonishing about this album, is that each track was mixed straight after it was recorded, no overdubs or spit and polish. Apparently, each track was also "invented" as it was put to Tape in the studio.
It has a real pristine feel to it. An album which is never mentioned that much, considering it was their swansong.

After recording this, and while they were over in California for their own funeral, they hooked up with Boyd Rice amongst others and visited the various noir tourist locations such as Spahn Ranch.
They also went shooting on the Chabut Range in Oakland with Uncle Bill Burroughs and visited Mark Pauline's Survival Research Laboratories and generally celebrated their own research of the last six years with all their like-minded comrades.

Ah well, no more TG then....

Little did we all know at the time, that 23 years later, some strange rumours started to abound.........

Written by Tim Jones in 2004

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

where is the DL link?