Throbbing Gristle’s Industrial Emotions Broke Noisy Ground

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The first band ever to be called “industrial,” Throbbing Gristle’s confrontational live performances and use of disturbing imagery, mixed with pre-recorded tape samples and special effects, created a distorted sound performance, quite ground-breaking in its time. Spinoff bands Psychic TV and Chris and Cosey continued to shock and beautify into the 1980s.

Chris and Cosey, Psychic TV, Throbbing Gristle

Part heady avant-garde improv, part well-considered Molotov cocktail, all ways disorienting, Throbbing Gristle’s debut steamrolled a new path for underground noiseniks by eschewing most of the formal rules of rock music — drums, guitars, melody and, on Side B, pulse entirely —going directly for the primal appeal of distortion. — Rolling Stone Magazine. Image from European Rendezvous, CTI.

Throbbing Gristle were an English industrial, avant-garde music and visual arts group that evolved from the performance art group COUM Transmissions. The band consisted of Genesis P-Orridge (born Neil Megson – bass guitar, violin, vocals, vibraphone), Cosey Fanni Tutti (guitars, cornet, vocals), Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson (tapes, found sounds, horns, piano, vibraphone, synthesizer), and Chris Carter (synthesizers, tapes, electronics).

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Psychic TV – Unclean

In its day, the racket Throbbing Gristle made was unlike anything heard before. It was allied to grim visions of Nazi death camps, serial killers, urban decay and imminent apocalypse. Today, their sound and iconography have been assimilated into the mainstream. Rock stars call themselves Marilyn Manson, arenas are filled by bands making a punishing noise and record shops devote acres to “industrial music,” a genre whose title Throbbing Gristle coined.  — The Guardian

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Throbbing Gristle – Discipline

The curious few who were lucky enough to have bought Throbbing Gristle’s 20 Jazz Funk Greats when it was originally released in 1979 were in for a treat. Possibly one of the most subversive albums of all time, the cover features the band posing in a pastoral field of wildflowers near a cliff’s edge, warmly offering the possibility of ’70s jazz funk that lay inside. Rather than easy-listening hits, the listener would soon discover they had purchased an album of pounding industrial vitriol from the “wreckers of civilization.” The cliff the band was standing near was an infamous English suicide spot.  — The Atlantic

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European Rendezvous (1984) was a follow-up to the Elemental 7 release by Throbbing Gristle spinoff Chris & Cosey with the pair performing under their Creative Technology Institute name. The visuals are a collaboration with John Lacey while the music was recorded live during their 1983 tour of Europe. H-T: UbuWeb

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About Jack Eidt

Novelist, urban theorist, and environmental journalist, Jack Eidt careens down human-nature's all consuming one-way highway to its inevitable conclusion -- Wilder Utopia. He co-founded Wild Heritage Planners, based out of Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at jack (dot) eidt (at) wilderutopia (dot) com. Follow him on Twitter @WilderUtopia and @JackEidt