James Knight Top Ten (Part 4)
OK, heres the next Top Ten from the manlike James Knight of Low Bias!!!
Oioi, back again! Biggup everyone that reached out after last month’s alt-country/Americana list to say they dug it. I was a bit surprised and really touched by how into some of those records a few people who got in touch with me were, they are all ones that mean a lot to me so it’s wicked that a few other people dig them and checked out a few bits they hadn’t checked out before. Nice one!
This month I have gone for ‘Throbbing Gristle and related’. I know that some people might have beef with me lumping Coil, Current 93 and Nurse With Wound in with TG and while I’d agree that those three bands/artists do stand apart they all sit together in my record collection and there is enough of a shared set of influences and constituent members to jam them all together in a single list I reckon!
In terms of background and/or further reading Cosey Fanni Tutti released her autobiography last year which gives a good overview of her perspective of COUM, TG and her work with Chris Carter subsequent to TG. If you can find a copy for a reasonable price, Simon Ford’s Wreckers of Civilisation is another good overview of COUM and TG. If you have even a passing interest in Coil, Current 93 and Nurse With Wound, I cannot recommend David Keenan’s England’s Hidden Reversehighly enough. It’s one of the few books about music that I have read more than once and Strange Attractor have published a second edition now so you can get hold of it for a fair whack here – https://strangeattractor.greedbag.com/buy/englands-hidden-reverse-1/ It is a wonderfully written evocation of a truly unique cluster of artists and if it is music that you have given a go but not quite clicked with it might just radicalise you! That axis of Coil, Current 93 and Nurse With Wound represent a version of that unique, eccentric, psychedelic, pagan version of Englishness that is connected to the land, nature and the mystical tradition and one that I might actually somehow be proud of.
“E-Coli” – Throbbing Gristle
I guess it makes sense to start with TG as the constituent members went on to be a part Psychic TV (Genesis and, initially at least, Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson), Coil (Sleazy after leaving Psychic TV) and, of course, Chris and Cosey. Both John Balance (who went on to form Coil with Sleazy) and David Tibet (who has created music under the moniker Current 93 since 1983) were also early members of Psychic TV. SO, the only artist on this list with no real direct link to, or involvement with, TG is Nurse With Wound’s Steven Stapleton, very fitting as he is and always was very much his own man!
Anyhow, this one is taken from the 1978 TG LP, D.O.A. The third & Final Report. It is less hectic and overtly confrontational than a lot of their other studio and live material and showcases the more brooding take on electronic ambience that the members of TG would go on to explore further in all of their subsequent project. It consists of little more than a menacing, pulsing bass frequency, a few swooping screeds of violin and a recording of the audio of what is probably a contemporary TV news report about the E-Coli virus. What more do you need?
“How To Destroy Angels” – Coil
Of all of the artists on this list Coil are something truly special to me. I have found solace, inspiration, elevation, annihilation, escape and oblivion in their music again and again and again over the years. I was lucky enough to see them live a couple times which certainly felt like a privilege at the time but it is in their recordings that you can really get lost. “How To Destroy Angels” is the very first Coil release and was conceptualised by Balance before Sleazy turned up with his machines and it features little more than some bullroarers and what sounds like some swords! It sets the tone for the recordings which were to follow and you honestly cannot go wrong with any of their very many releases. From the unhinged energy of Horse Rotorvator to the dark opiated pulsing of Love’s Secret Domain to the creeping dark ambience of Musick To Play In The Dark. You could honestly just work through the lot chronologically and you’ll struggle to find a dud as far as I’m concerned. Due to the limited nature of the physical copies of many their releases and the messy and unresolved nature of the copyrights to the recordings a huge amount of Coil material is available on the Internet Archive:
However, I would actively encourage people to keep an eye out for physical re-issues of Coil material which are being released the right way on labels like Cold Spring, Optimo Music and Dais. And of course, if you get down to Reckless regularly enough you will be able to pick up copies or both original pressings and re-issues. I got a nice copy of the Important re-issue of their 1984 split with The New Blockaders in the Reckless racks just a few months back – seek and ye shall find people! This is a tongue in cheek, and very amusing, short feature on the band from 2001:
“Ooooh it’s the sound of Satan’s hooves in my skull!”
“Chewing On Shadows” – Current 93
I am pretty sure that it was none other than the Bad Boy Bress himself that introduced me to Current 93. I had encountered Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV by the time I moved up to Nottingham but Chris definitely opened my ears to C93, Coil and Nurse With Wound and I haven’t looked back since so really this list is thanks to him in large part! Current 93 are many things, again a slow trawl through their discography shall not leave you anything other than staggered I’d hope but this track encapsulates everything I like about the warm, gentle, haunting acoustic music David Tibet tends to make in collaboration with Michael Cashmore on records like Soft Black Stars. As ever, Tibet’s mysterious, naked and brutally honest vocal can’t fail to move you. Unless you find it a bit weird and funny – which it can be at the same time! Here is Tibet interviewed in ’88 again excerpted from The Sound Of Progress documentary:
“Rites Of Reversal” – Psychic TV
Since the dissolution of TG, Psychic TV has kind of acted as a vessel for whatever Genesis has wanted to do musically. This has led to a whole bunch of records including some good and not so good acid house and the more recent iteration of PTV as a kind of tripped out psychedelic biker band. In amongst the 80s PTV records though is some real gold including the ‘Themes’ series which constituted recordings PTV made for film and TV projects. These recordings tended to be extended and abstract and this recording in particular is from Themes 2 released in 1985 and was commissioned by Derek Jarman for a short film of his. Personally, I am not so keen on the cult of personality propagated by Genesis from that period until, well, now really, however, the music has always kept me coming back and my thoughts are with Genesis as they fight perhaps their toughest battle yet. As this short TV spot from 1984 shows Gen has never been shy of a battle and being “the bull in the china shop” so here’s hoping they pull through:
“Thunder Perfect Mind” – Nurse With Wound
As mentioned above Steven Stapleton stands somewhat apart from the other artists in this microcosm and the music he makes as Nurse With Wound, both in collaboration with others and alone, is utterly idiosyncratic, unique and genuinely beyond meaningful description. Stapleton’s age dictated that his roots are perhaps more in the psychedelic underground and counterculture borne of the late 1960s than many of the other artists in the early industrial scene that Nurse often get lumped in with. Throughout the mid to late 70s Stapleton was dedicated to unearthing the strangest records he could find and he travelled across Europe with what would become the original Nurse lineup – his friends John Fothergill and Herman Pathak – hunting and amassing a collection that would provide the source material for the legendary Nurse With Wound List (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nurse_with_Wound_list ) that accompanied the first NWW LP, 1978’s Chance Meeting on a Dissecting Table of a Sewing Machine and an Umbrella. With such diverse and interesting influences combined with a complete lack of any training or experience playing any instruments or recording in a studio it is perhaps unsurprising that Nurse music came out sounding so unlike anything else! I’ve picked a Youtube smoosh of both of the tracks (“Cold” and “Colder Still”) that make up 1992’s Thunder Perfect Mindas it remains perhaps the most definitive version of what I hear in my head when I imagine Nurse music. In terms of personnel it involves the trio of Stapleton and his most frequent collaborators: Current 93’s David Tibet and Colin Potter who has engineered a huge amount of Nurse material over the years. Current 93 recorded a ‘sister’ album of the same title which is also one of the very best C93 releases.
This short 30 minute documentary that was originally created by the Brainwashed.com folks allows an insight into Stapleton’s life in Cooloorta, Ireland where he has lived for many years and created an isolated environment where he can, live, work and create with the freedom he requires:
Thanks not only for the records and all the amazing art but also for being you Stapleton, you are a true inspiration!
“Time To Tell” – Cosey Fanni Tutti:
I finally got a copy of Cosey’s autobiography for Christmas and it was a good read. I actually found the stuff detailing the ins and outs of TG the least interesting parts of the book as Cosey’s descriptions of both her early life in Hull and her work in the sex industry were so fascinating. By working as a striptease artists and posing both for pornographic stills and films Cosey was able to explore a multitude themes in her fine art practice and that work remains extraordinary. This track allows Cosey to give her perspective on these actions over a pulsing track that she produced and originally released on cassette in 1983. Another particularly inspiring individual to me, biggup Cosey!
“Time Machines” – Time Machines
Coil used several aliases to explore music that they felt at the time did not quite fit under the Coil banner. Of all of their many releases this is possibly my favourite. It consists of four tracks each named after a the chemical names for four psychedlic substances as described by the grand magus of psychedelic chemistry, Alexander Shulgin in his defintive books on the subject PIKHAL and TIHKALwhich stand for “Phenethylamines I Have Known And Loved” and “Tryptamines I Have Known and Loved”. The liner notes included with Time Machines explain the music as:
“4 tones to facilitate travel through time”
Balance and Sleazy were never ones to shirk away from the possibilities offered by the chemical alteration of the senses and the substances described in the track titles could theoretically have both inspired the creation of the music and/or enhanced the ability of the music to facilitate travel through time. Either way I was very happy when Dais pressed the four tracks onto a double LP last year. Here is some footage of them performing Time Machines at Sonar back in 2000 in their wonderful furry bear space suits:
“Space Music” – Nurse With Wound
Sticking with the tripping through the ambient infinite theme here’s another of my absolute favourite NWW releases. It’s a relatively recent one from 2009 and I knew as soon as I saw the sleeve I’d love it. Stapleton doing his take on this kind of thing is like manna to me and it is a perfect encapsulation of the kind of stuff I like to play in the first half of the show I do on NTS. The music was originally commissioned by the Melbourne Planetarium and the hype sticker on the original CD release reads thus:
“Be warned the sounds you are hearing are NOT marmots eating your tweeters though you are best advised to apply volume lightly at first. Stapleton’s Astral Weeks have been distilling sounds into sipping moonshine. LITERAL Moonshine. After a viscerally present launch cycle the Voyager Nurse Module is designed to be piloted by the out-of-body listener. With Lilith-like subtlety, the concrete powered craft makes it way ever closer to the edge of the galaxy. Which one? Who Knows? Whichever it is, Vaclav Helhybel (OUTER SPACE: MUSIC) and Frank Perry (DEEP PEACE) are there waiting”
“Dancing Ghosts” – CTI
I could have chosen any number of Chris & Cosey tracks but this one probably shades it as my all-time pick. It’s so many of my favourite things at once that it is almost too much! That they recorded this in 1982 never fails to amaze when you consider the records that would begin emanating out of Chicago and Detroit a couple of years later. This was originally part of a soundtrack for a one hour video entitled Elemental 7 that Chris & Cosey made with longtime COUM associate John Lacey and it was later released as an LP in 1984. One day I shall get hold of a copy, they all turn up eventually!
“Janitor Of Lunacy” – XTG
The TG reunion of the late 00s ended before all four members could complete the final project which Sleazy had envisaged: a track for track cover of Nico’s 1970 LP, Desertshore. With Genesis no longer willing to participate Sleazy, Chris and Cosey regrouped as XTG and enlisted a whole raft of vocalists including Marc Almond, Sasha Grey, Blixa Bargeld and even Gaspar Noe to complete the recordings. The opening track, “Janitor Of Lunacy”, features Antony and is an incredibly haunting send off for Sleazy for whom the project meant so much but sadly he would never hear finished as he passed away in his sleep at his home in Thailand in November 2010.
R.I.P. Sleazy. R.I.P. Balance. Reunited in the infinite.