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Throbbing Gristle - The Second Annual Report CD (album) cover


Throbbing Gristle


Progressive Electronic

3.66 | 32 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars On any normal day, if asked "When is a prog album not prog?", I'd probably simply answer "Bat Out of Hell" and that would be that. But recently, I got to thinking about Throbbing Gristle's work in terms of what could ever allow them on these archives - it's pretty obvious that they are quite unlike any prog electronic out there, let alone the rest of the progsphere.

Now, it could very well be their influences still managing to talk for themselves: roll call reveals White Noise's deconstruction of their own happy psychedelic electro on the second side of "An Electric Storm", K Kluster's minimalist mechanical musics that were as much a precursor to industrial as to their own later work as C Cluster, and Can's "Aumgn" and "Peking O", where they let themselves experiment with soundscapes outright engineered for introducing listeners to the sounds of madness, plus some conceptual and performance tips from Zappa, Beefheart, and Morrison. What TG made is best compared to the two cited Can tracks, which were the least prog but the most radical pieces they ever made. And from there, further musical influence came from John Cage and the concrete composers, and further conceptual influence from the likes of William S. Burroughs, first compiling the library of transgression behind industrial.

Ultimately, though, I conclude the connection is pretty strong, and what TG made, especially here, is something like an errant Hull sourced answer by the Dusseldorf School to Tangerine Dream and the rest of the one in Berlin. Think of this as a pitch dark "Zeit". That is the unique thing about early industrial: it was a unique stepping off point from not just electronica but also psychedelia and, I would now say, the fringes of prog.

More importantly, of course, is the music. The sounds. This album is nothing short of a grand, all encompassing portrait of a dark world not completely of P-Orridge's, Fanni-Tutti's, Christopherson's, and Carter's own designs. This record is the founder of not just industrial, but also of the grand tradition within industrial of debuts being spectacular mission statements - "Mix-Up", "Birthdeath Experience", "Kollaps", "Laibach", "Pretty Hate Machine". Through judicious choices and playing, the band achieved music that sounds like an inexorable march through the mirror of our world they set up. Gristleised guitars sound like mechanical thunder on "Slug Bait - Southampton", and then go martial on "Maggot Death - Rat Club". Sickly synths move the experience forward even in the album's slowest and otherwise quietest moments. P-Orridge was happy to recite lyrics about war crimes and how much the audience sucked, and they had samples to top even that. And "After Cease To Exist" achieves a heck of a balance: ever gripping, yet often too quiet, in that haunting sense.

And special mention goes to the samples, what helps achieve the soundscapes in the greatest, scariest, and most unique way. Random sounds, out of place dance tunes, horrified and horrible people, with placement and even juxtaposition to die for. John hit upon a great concrete soundscape like this with "Revolution 9" - perhaps another influence - and Steven Stapleton would do plenty of great work like this as Nurse With Wound, but TG's concrete side really sticks out. It's what I stay for and what I envy.

Altogether, I can conclude by saying a few concise things about this beast. Still one of the greatest of all industrial albums. A unique and excellent experimental record. A terrifying, dour, off, and yet addictive soundscape. A mission statement. A monument to what transgressive art can be. A prog album that isn't prog. Industrial people - if you haven't, listen to this. Adventurous progheads - perhaps you won't like this, but if you're feeling really open minded, you might find something or other in here.

LearsFool | 5/5 |


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