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Throbbing Gristle - Mutant Throbbing Gristle

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Artist: Throbbing Gristle

Album: Mutant Throbbing Gristle

Label: Mute

Review date: Apr. 21, 2004

Presumably Throbbing Gristle need little introduction to Dusted's readership: 1975-1981, founders of Industrial Records, audio provocateurs, media tricksters. Since the group's dissolution, they splintered into Psychic TV, Coil, and Chris & Cosey, taking their initial inspirations into different territories. What remained consistent, however, was the apparent urge to direct electronics into various dark corners to see what would turn up. Chris & Cosey's danceable mutant pop, Psychic TV's house proclivities, and Coil's minimalism have all been not just relevant, but often revelatory as well.

The notion of the group performing and recording together again, as is planned for this spring, is a somewhat frightening one. While anyone revisiting their music now will be surprised at how current it still sounds, any long broken-up band reuniting inevitably smacks of either desperation or a desire to cash in one more time. Given some of the members' activities over the past decade, either is a possibility for TG. But the fact remains that some of them have continued to make essential music, so there must be something more going on than a shared desperation over declining careers.

What does this mean for the first CD of Throbbing Gristle remixes? Again, it's either an attempt to pump up the image prior to the reunited group's appearance, or a simple nod to those who have been affected by the group over the years. Looking at the names involved, I have to admit that my first feeling was a sinking stomach, as I imagined flaccid house beats laid over songs that had originally been on the cutting edge of sound.

Thankfully, and surprisingly, that turns out not to be the case. For the most part, these remixes allow the souls of the originals to show through while at the same time turning them in new directions. The Motor remix of "Persuasion" keeps the song slow and stripped-down, with a rhythm built of clicks and snare, while Hedonastik's "What a Day" strews mechanical-sounding metallics across a funkified version of the song's original beat.

Carl Craig takes two shots here. His version of "Hot on the Heels of Love" maintains the original's feel, though the rhythm is more consistent and somewhat less interesting; the feeling of sound under pressure remains, though. His reworking of "Still Walking" is better, a dark, dank and echoey version that shows Throbbing Gristle to have been hip to trip-hop long before the genre existed.

TG members Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti get their own licks in twice. First with a skeletal, slow "Hamburger Lady" that's eerie, like sound leaking in from another dimension; and then "HotHeelsUnited," which cleverly combines two songs into one, backed with an insistent pulsing bass beat.

Not all of the remixes work as well. Two Lone Swordsmen dissect "United" into a pulsing rhythm that keeps the vocals but loses some of the original's dark feeling of threat. And Simon Ratcliffe (of Basement Jaxx) turns the original of "Hot on the Heels of Love" into a sweetness-and-light club tune devoid of personality.

On the whole, however, this was a pleasant surprise, if not an absolute must for anyone but die-hard TG fans. If you're not familiar with Throbbing Gristle's legacy, you'll be better off picking up a copy of any of their first few albums. But if you've got those and are curious, this is an intriguing collection.

By Mason Jones

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