A can’t-miss collection of music.
For the members of Throbbing Gristle, weirdness was a spectrum. At one end, there was Genesis P-Orridge and Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson, both ferociously odd artists, both in their music and in real life, as somehow-real human beings. On the other, though, there was Chris Carter, talented and, occasionally, strange, but manageably so; sometimes, pioneers are just quietly weird people. His work in Throbbing Gristle and outside of it—chiefly with his wife, Cosey Fanni Tutti (also of Throbbing Gristle) performing as Chris & Cosey (now just Carter Tutti)—and also as a solo artist.
Miscellany, a welcome sight for vinyl-loving fans of Carter’s output, collects some of his best work—1985’s Mondo Beat EP, 1998’s Disobedient, and 1999’s Small Moon, the latter two of which were never before pressed on vinyl—and caps things off with a set of archival recordings from Throbbing Gristle’s heyday. The set comes on the heels of last year’s Chris Carter’s Chemistry Lessons Vol. 1, his first solo LP in 17 years, a masterful collection that helped reinvigorate the world’s desire for the kind of quiet weirdness only Carter can deliver.
In re-listening to these pieces, we get to see the progression of Carter in the wake of Throbbing Gristle’s dissolution, starting with the noticeably-‘80s Mondo Beat EP. He made this in 1985, and while the music here is quality, at times it can feel like the work of someone intentionally making stock music to be used in films set in the ‘80s. Even the weirdest tracks, like bizarro “Nobadhairdo” and “Real Life,” a song that sounds like an early, unreleased KMFDM demo, fail to feel substantial. Make no mistake: Mondo Beat is fun, and while insubstantial, it helps position where Carter was, musically, in the wake of a force like Throbbing Gristle. In hindsight, it almost feels like a means for Carter to flip to the other end of the spectrum, inflicting minor oddity on pop music, rather than producing lunatic music like that of 20 Jazz Funk Greats and The Second Annual Report.
Disobedient, from 1998, is where things really begin to get interesting. Compiled from recordings of live performances in 1995, Disobedient is one of the most “Really? That was an hour?” musical experiences you could imagine: a series of long, interlocking segments that range from darkly foreboding (the ambient John Carpenter-esque “Pulsec,” which bubbles darkly without shutting down the flow of the album) to hypnotic (“Lixiez” and “TVX” each creep slowly, with simple beats that worm their way into your brain with repeated listens). He even gets properly dance-worthy, as is the case with opener “Pantavistiq” and closer “Domank,” the latter of which is a 10-minute thrill ride that leaves you clambering for more. Both Disobedient and Small Moon feature self-titled “Redux” tracks and “Disobedient Redux” wisely delivers on that craving with an 11-minute behemoth that centers around an Inception-like bass tone that gets swallowed by the track’s addicting momentum.
A year later, Carter created Small Moon, the hyperactive younger brother of Disobedient. Opener “Arcadia” and follow-up “Praxiz” practically beg you to get moving, a desire that fuels the first 20 minutes of the album. Things shift when we get to “Klypp’d,” a downtempo number that wouldn’t feel too out of place on Mezzanine, with the strength to match. The aptly-named “Non-Pop” continues this slowdown, a bare-bones song with just enough of a beat to keep your body ready to move, without giving it quite enough fuel to actually do it, an itch that won’t be scratched until about four minutes into “Reazymn,” which comes on strong with ghost whispers and deep bass notes. The album closes on “Soho… 3am,” a busy, almost Aphex Twin-like return to the energy that kicked off the album, that—inexplicably—coasts to an end so gracefully, you don’t quite notice that you’re just listening to the sound of a rainy street, complete with thunder overhead for two full minutes. It’s a real magic trick, then, that despite how satisfying that truly ambient conclusion is, “Small Moon Redux”—the better of the two “Redux” tracks, one that combines the best elements of Small Moon into one 8-minute package—manages to tastefully return you to Carter’s musical world, a cool and blissful journey that, at times, feels like a more sophisticated Gas song, before, again, returning you to a grimy dancefloor, wanting so much more than just four minutes.
The feather in the collection’s cap is the trove of unreleased tracks, Archival 1973 – 1977, slingshots us back to Carter before Throbbing Gristle’s The First Annual Report, all the way through the release of The Second Annual Report. This batch of songs is like a primitive version of the Carter we’d see on Disobedient. Some tracks, like “Null,” with its foreboding, warped synths and wooden beat, work exceptionally well, making you want to hear what a fully-realized version of the song might sound like. Even when at his worst here, he’s trying interesting things, such as “Head Less,” an early drone piece that feels like Stars of the Lid decided to add more strange noises around The Ballasted Orchestra. While none of the music on Archival 1973 – 1977 is all that essential, it, too, provides a worthwhile glimpse at Carter’s artistic progression.
Though he never stood out as much as the other, fiercer, weirdos of Throbbing Gristle, Miscellany helps reinforce the fact that, despite his flashiness, Carter is a fantastic musician, capable of producing immaculately-sequenced albums-worth of gorgeous beats. Any lover of homemade synths, die-hard Throbbing Gristle fan looking to expand her knowledge of the band’s other music, or fiend for seriously good electronic music, this is a can’t-miss collection of music.