The Mission Is Terminated. Or so we thought. In 2007 Throbbing Gristle rose from the ashes and reunited to create the brilliant 'Part Two: The Endless Not' and played some blistering live performances which I deeply regret not having witnessed in the flesh. If only I could turn back the clock. Being an avid TG fan it feels like I’ve been waiting an eternity for this double album to arrive. Finally it’s here and it feels like Christmas has come a month early in my world.
Being in the privileged position to be able to hear this before it’s official release felt like a genuinely special moment. I’ve got to try and not get too sentimental and mushy about this but honestly if I sat down and thought about how much pleasure I’ve had over the years from the music of TG, Chris & Cosey and Coil, I’d probably break down and cry or something. In many ways their sounds have become like the soundtrack to my life.
Firstly re-imagining ‘Desertshore’ was Peter Christopherson’s vision which sadly he was unable to complete due to him “Going upstairs”. The seeds planted by Sleazy were thankfully nurtured by Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti to blossom into the beautiful sonic flower being transmitted into my cerebral cortex via headphones. If you’re not familiar with Nico’s 1970 masterpiece then you ought to think about rectifying that at your earliest convenience. She is incredible on that record and John Cale’s work on it is breathtaking. So quite the task to take on such an ambitious project, one that in the wrong hands could have been disastrous. X-TG’s version of the album is amazing in its own right, but I think if you are familiar with the original their translation becomes a far more rewarding listen. The cast of guest vocalists is a stellar line-up with some fairly obvious choices and some real surprises. When the album opens with ‘Janitor Of Lunacy’ as soon as the brass comes in and Antony begins to sing it’s goosebump time. None of the sorrow of the original is lost, if anything it’s enhanced. The electronic wizardry at play is mind-blowing but then I expect nothing less from Chris Carter who is in my eyes quite possibly the greatest living artist in electronic music.
Blixa Bargeld contributes vocals to the gloomy military march of ‘Abschied’ and totally nails it. Sasha Grey summons a suitably detached sounding voice for ‘Afraid’ and at this point it occurs to me that even though it’s a cover version it’s unmistakably the sound of TG (minus Genesis of course). The sinister, creepy sounds they’ve pioneered over the years sound a lot more polished these days, clearly due to Carter's immense skill and knowledge of cutting edge music technology. In comparison to the fidelity of early TG this sounds like it was created in the year 3000 on the Starship Enterprise.
Mark Almond’s performance on ‘The Falconer’ is gorgeous. Here the affection for the source material becomes apparent from both sides, with a level of attention to detail which is staggering. ‘All That Is My Own’ is a real highlight with Cosey’s haunting voice perfectly complementing the futuristic technoid electronics and growling bassline. Argentine director Gasper Noe is one of the aforementioned surprise choices on vocal duties. His processed voice adding a thrilling alien dynamic to 'Le Petit Chevalier', coming across like some evil malfunctioning cyborg.
Cosey makes a second vocal performance on 'My Only Child' and beautifully captures the essence of the original while the electronics shimmer, glisten and sparkle around a synthetic choir which elevates that track into the realms of the devotional. The ghostly title track closes the album with whispered vocals, eerie piano, superb sound design and vivid ambient soundscapes recalling both the work of Coil’s later material and Chris & Cosey’s more ethereal output.
Desertshore is a fitting tribute to Nico and Cale’s original work and also a tribute to Peter Christopherson’s vision and remarkable life’s work. What a beautiful way to close the door on Throbbing Gristle and their legacy, one which I’m sure will continue to move and inspire into eternity as their soundwaves continue to vibrate long into the future. I seem to have been constantly disappointed recently with records I’ve had high hopes for, thankfully that’s not the case here. I knew this was gonna be great but really it has surpassed my expectations. It is an epic, remarkable album, an immediate twenty first century classic. But that’s just half the story...
This time round it really is the Final Report but as we know all good things must come to an end. This album really showcases the TG sound in all its beautifully dark and brooding glory and is a testament to Carter and Christopherson’s boundary pushing innovations with audio technology. The chilling vocals sound like subliminal messages being transmitted from another dimension. I could babble on and on but you’re probably bored to death by now of my chuntering. This music requires no further explanation or description from myself, all it requires is a pair of ears. After all Throbbing Gristle (or X-TG in this case) are what ears were made for.
Double 180g vinyl gatefold LP with booklet and elegant minimalist 2CD package with postcard on Industrial Records. The world of music doesn’t get more ESSENTIAL than this.