Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Throbbing Gristle at the AIR Gallery

Listening to Throbbing Gristle's live debut which took place 40 years ago today... On the 6th of July, three months before the group's official launch at the "Prostitution" show at London's Institute of Contemporary Arts, Chris Carter, Peter Christopherson, Genesis P-Orridge and Cosey Fanni Tutti performed for the first time as Throbbing Gristle at the AIR Gallery on Shaftesbury Avenue. The AIR Gallery itself is worthy of a mention. Located near St Martins College Of Art and the Slade, the AIR (which stood for Artists Information Register) was a space for new artists to display their work, the gallery positively encouraged artists "whose work breaches traditional boundaries". Prior to TG's performance, Cosey Fanni Tutti performed a highly visceral solo COUM action entitled Woman's Roll. The group's debut was witnessed by about 30 people although witness may not be the correct term as TG performed in one room, with the sound relayed to an adjacent room where the audience was gathered.

As for the music itself, the AIR Gallery concert is one of the group's most minimalist sets, an entirely instrumental 38mins of dark brooding, low end bass-guitar noise, sheets of distorted electronics, heavily amplified plucked violin strings, and layered throughout with pre-recorded tapes of chugging rhythms and eerie synth lines. The quality of the official recording is murky (reminiscent of bootlegged Les Rallizes Dénudés shows), the cassette recorder sounds far removed from the source which may well be an accurate facsimile of what the audience experienced. Incidentally, 8min or so of the AIR Gallery show was included as part of the Best of...Vol 1 tape and much later, a lengthy and significantly cleaner sounding excerpt from the performance, appropriately titled Raw Mode of Life, was included on the unofficial 1997 Dossier CD release Kreme Horn.

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