Throbbing Gristle Part Two: The Endless Not

[Mute; 2007]

Styles: industrial, experimental
Others: Coil, Psychic TV, CTI

The ripple effect of Throbbing Gristle felt to this day really cannot be understated. From post-punk and early electronic pop to the current dominion of noise, their work -- a confrontational, non-compromised assault on the senses -- has echoed far and wide. They referenced the bleak in an unflinching manner, forcing acknowledgment of perversions and the unexplainable. While this artistic concept certainly didn’t make them an easy listen or media darlings, for the initiated they were an unmatched inspiration that resonates in their minds to this day. This has all been said a million times before though, hasn’t it? Moving on...

It would have been naïve to expect Throbbing Gristle to replicate their initial stage of development. Judging from statements Peter made prior to their first Re-TG gig at the London Astoria, however (which was staged in lieu of the canceled ATP festival), that would have been an unlikely lure for him anyway. They needed to proceed in their explorations because he was not going to have any part in a waltz down memory lane, a sentiment that was likely shared by all. Sadly, upon release of Part Two some critics have chastised them for not retaining their aggressive sensibility. But what exactly did the media expect? I am quite certain that if this record had presented itself as Heathen Earth The Second, they would have just as quickly depreciated the work with accusations of no advancement, reliving past glories, etc. So, really, the question I pose is: Could they have pleased everyone with this record? I am afraid the answer would be an absolute and unequivocal 'no.'

With The Endless Not, Throbbing Girstle have thankfully moved forward and expanded upon their established identity, retaining inherent qualities that informed their past work while neoteric images and gestures birth in the existent frame. Shades of their work as the fractions that were/are Coil, Psychic TV and CTI filter into the equation as well, resulting in a document that stands as four individuals united addressing their 'now' as opposed to their past. I would suggest this is more of a rebirthing than a reunion. Their grey, claustrophobic sonic debris of yore have been replaced with a more expansive and colorful assessment of space, and while repetition remains a focus, as with earlier recordings, their manifestations are presented in a more prodigious manner.

The hypnotic opener “Vow of Silence” is a case in point; the focal point loop shifts ever downwards, while layers of voice and atmospheric noise scatter outward and pull back into the building, a cyclic swell suggesting a constant state of expansion and contraction. As a first statement, it is a powerful one and demonstrates the clearer textural focus assumed on this recording. “Rabbit Snare” follows with braying horns, piano flourishes, brush sprays, and Genesis P'Orridge's incomparable vocals, invoking shadows of a soundtrack to a Derek Jarman film never made, with Simon Fisher Turner swaying most agreeably in the filigree. The intoxicating lament of “Almost a Kiss” arches, swells, and collapses manifold upon the listener, while disembodied choirs reach out and evaporate just short of the point where they might become tangible. Strangely, it reminds me a bit vocally of one of my favorite Psychic TV moments, “I.C. Water.” There is an undeniable dramaturgic overtone to the entire record that presents itself even in the gut-tugging collapse and roll of a track like “Lyre Liar”; it breathes an expanse that reaches beyond its auditory limits. However, the auditory sky-scratch is never more apparent than on “The Endless Not,” as P'Orridge’s voice circles overhead in response to cloudbursts and groundswells that bleed into the horizon.

Each member contributes a solo piece, which present a fragment of Throbbing Gristle's whole. Chris Carter and Cosey Tanni Tutti’s respective pieces, “Separated” and “Above the Below,” share a similar ambience, which is not surprising considering their history with one another. It is not to say that they don’t each speak in their own voice, but there is a stasis connecting the track filaments, which reference each other as only a couple would. P'Orridge’s track, “The Worm Waits Its Turn,” is undeniably him, with rattle, screech, and cadence dancing alongside his ever suggestive voice. Peter’s composition, “After the Fall,” aches, lurches, and diffuses into the abyss placed before him; it holds within its strains the most delicate four minutes on the release.

So, at this point, I have written the many virtues of Part Two: The Endless Not and placed them before you, but the decision is ultimately yours. I can suggest this record until I go blue in the face, but do understand that this is a work of maturation. I feel it is highly successful for that; they don't sound dated or to mire themselves in themes that would betray their years. The Endless Not is ultimately a testament to getting it right, even after a lengthy separation, and proves that getting old doesn’t mean that you have to suffer loss of potency. I look forward to the continuation of this leg of the mission.

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