Chris Carter | Box Set – Miscellany
Mute (6xLP/4xCD w/booklet)
Just in time for the gift-giving season, out on December 14th is a very unique retrospective look back to the solo work of ex-Throbbing Gristle member Chris Carter. The fat set, Miscellany, includes previously unreleased work dating back to as early as 1973! Check out Variables (1975) here:
The box is a collection of three previously released works, remastered (and mastered for the first time) albums in a limited run of only 1000 (LP version). The set includes “a 24-page 12” sized booklet featuring rare and unseen images, hand-drawn synthesiser schematics and other ephemera from Carter’s archive. Both Disobedient and Small Moon will be available here for the first time on vinyl. The CD box set will contain 4-CDs and a 24-page booklet.”
Listen to an assortment of Chris Carter’s audioclips here.
HERE’S THE BREAKDOWN:
Mondo Beat (1985) – clear vinyl
From 1985 this was Carter’s second solo record (his first, The Space Between – Industrial Records, 1980). Immediately you are immersed into a magical synthetic world on Moonlight which is on par with any concurrent work of the era. It’s so bright you’d hardly have pinned this as anything that could have grown from the TG universe, but this is a clever set of stringed melodies that harkens to the likes of the poppier side of acts like Echo and the Bunnymen, China Crisis, Depeche Mode, Big Country, Art of Noise or other synth practitioners of the late 70s/early 80s. A delightful shift happens on the very next track, Real Life, where churchy echoes meet the grind of industrial oscillations. Mumbled voices confront a series of funky odd beats ala same era Cabaret Voltaire – this influence bleeds into Noevil as well. Some of the work here is too dependent on the tech of the time, though because of it takes me back – in the same way that some of the old Decca recordings of big bands of the 40s do — though Carter seems to be copious in his inventive structures and timing.
Mondo B starts with those voices (in my head?) and uses a slick artificial beat structure to draw the lines in this geometrically composed track. The percussion breaks with traditions, even when in repetition, and in the end this has more in common with some of the Detroit acid techno of the era (Juan Atkins, Derrick May and others come to mind) rather than Euro-electronics. The ominous opening of Nobadhairdo with its voice samples and slowed down, rounded tribal drumming is a nice turn here. It’s one of those ‘tween tracks that helps shift the mood rather than typical incidental work, smoothing the setting, chilling the atmosphere. Finally Beyond Temptation offers the feisty ‘thwack’ beat and distortion of deep voices that counter and act as percussion in/of itself. This has more in common with the Warm Leatherette school than with any aforementioned references – though it strays with a less-than-pop searing guitar buzz and other dappled effects. Carter may have had one foot on the dancefloor, split with his obvious TG edge.
Disobedient (1998) – double purple vinyl, includes new track “Disobedient Redux”
Fast-forward thirteen years and here we have a record that has its own signature (originally released on Conspiracy International). From the opener with its synthetic scrubbing, Pantavistiq is an intriguing piece that holds the secrets of a mysterious sense of hovering close to its chest. Carter had obviously spent the needed time to develop his own style as a solo artist whereas the previous was far more undefined. Here he’s had enough time away from the structure of a band that he begins to explore this intriguing mix between sci-fi atmospheres alongside a bit of tribal rhythms – and it works well. In fact it has this strange swelling vibe as its drones move so fluidly. There is a nice sense of open-ended separation to the way in which these tracks are delivered. A track like Solomo chugs away like a refined blend of variant minimal techno. Lixiez has a similar pulse, but scales a slightly darker side of these otherwise formless under structures.
There are moments throughout that seem like experimental passages made for hypnotherapy, but Carter uses just the right touch of intermittent icy free radicals on Chakutut to keep the ear active. This is a true long-player, it doesn’t seem to want to conform to a typical album structure, it has what I consider the ‘Klaus Schulze effect’ – it meanders and takes you with it. It’s a hard feat to pull off actually. Versix has a post-EBM feel, and manages to remain incognito for its short run. And in the final stretch the subliminal beats of Sublev locate the surface. With hiss and fluttering effects this is as close this record gets to traditional techno, and it sounds super-fresh even two decades later. Filled with a gaseous drone, insect tweets and a limited beat, this is a scintillating mix. Domank picks up by adding a scribbly wave and a low-grade building melody fueled by an anxious, trippy, stride. It’s a rubberized distortion of rhythms at its central core, moving left of center and ending with a near shoe-gazer of industrial sparseness.
The bonus here is the 11 minute plus Disobedient Redux, which opens with a heartbeat pulse, quickening with a triple beat and horn-like drones. My impression is this is a edited down montage of the whole record compacted into a tight synopsis overview. Though it is its own work, like a meta take on the concept of the whole record, capsulized. However, it becomes more of a remix and the most likely candidate for late night dancefloor denizens.
Small Moon (1999) – double white vinyl, includes new track “Small Moon Redux”
The following year Carter broke with his own trajectory for something again different, not altogether, but most certainly focused on the conjured IDM movement. He may not have received apt recognition at the time, yet he was both in his own pocket, and neck to neck with practitioners of the era (ie: Aphex Twin, The Black Dog, Luke Vibert and Atom Heart). When I first spied this record in the shops, judging by its cover, I thought he’d gone completely ambient rogue (which he eventually did with his collaboratives CTI and to a lesser extent with Cosey Fanni Tutti) but this is a funky dance record that sneaks up on you. When Arcadia starts you may assume that too, it’s a trippy ethereal harmony that turns on a dime, into this wondrously sprocketed beat. The thing bounces like grapes on cling wrap – and the format continues into Praxiz. It breaks back into a hall of mirrors in the restrained Klypp’D which starts off as if it were multi-layered, remotely guided surveillance. It maintains this slick, laidback groove throughout showcasing Carter’s sultry side.
The minimal atmosphere of Non-Pop shines with poised, nominal percussion and muscular basslines – all very understated. For these ears it’s the standout track, though similar is Reazymn which uses the left and right channels to keep your ears popping in either direction, but it breaks into a bit of a Middle Eastern rhythmic flair. Carter finds perfect pockets for minimal breakdowns that only amplify the drama of the track. Both these previous works are low-rise hipswayers, deep almost grinding beats. On Soho… 3am some street recordings blend with a zippy micro techno that clenches and lets go. The synths shift in chord structure to a bit of a crystalline kaleidoscope as the layers traipse into dark corners of abstract effects ala droid-speak and other transmissions.
In the bonus, Small Moon Redux, a thick pulsation paves way to a rather soothing balance between space and time. This unhurried piece mixes more field recordings, like that of an open market square with a series of quizzical gem-tones that lead to a shroud of balanced drone harmony. There’s a slow reverse motion effect that echoes inside the mix. It ends up being quite driven three quarters the way through, fading out in the final thirty seconds.
Archival Recordings 1973 to 1977 – blue vinyl, unreleased
Last, but definitely not least, ares Carter’s earliest known recordings from his broken archive circa 1973 – 1977 — meaning he would have been a mere teen when these were recorded. These are chronological, starting with Nodes (1973), and my guess is that at even under twenty years old he may have perhaps been watching Doctor Who (the O.G.) or had the opportunity to be exposed to some of the experimental German electronics of the era. It’s got a unique warp and pulsation, similar to some of the commercial work being produced for sci-fi cinema. I’m impressed with the scaled back style, and the clarity of the final product given the age of these, and what might have been accessible to him in terms of recording equipment.
Tracks like Head Less and Null really take off with what would become some of his circular, trance-inducing style in the years to come. None of the earliest initial tracks have the pompous sheen attributed to an angsty teen, until you get to Runclodler (1974) which, with its air raid shelter allure and minimal toy-like themes starts to build upon layers and beat structures. Speaking of which – these are almost jingle-like in structure, friendly and fanciful, but not frivolous. Jet Age (1975) is actually quite Eno-esque (it was the year of his Another Green World as well as Discrete Music) in its long drones and minor effects. He’s beginning to grapple with some heavier tones that stretch and glow and bloat like a foghorn on Warm Hair. This is all still a year before Throbbing Gristle would come together to steal the underground industrial noise scene.
Wybbel (1976) is soaked a drone din, a bit of a black hole scooping a sludge-like beat. It’s thick and dark and gooey and yet for all its abstraction remains quite listenable. In 1977 he made this unmistakably paradoxically alien-like Black Powder which coincided with films like Logan’s Run and Star Wars on the horizon. Filled with a gentle rattle, contorted voices (beyond recognition) and a strange dirty funk, this makes way for the pitter-patter of Ghost Trains. Though upbeat the canvas is quite simplistic here, but the themes have a running thread that eavesdrop on the cosmic silver screen. And last up, the jittery jangle and space dust glimmer of See Sick enters. Here you can understand the kernels and/or influence of his part within the backdrop of the TG quartet. As bombs drop a murky brew of drone and tone percolates. The final word here is quite gaseous and dank.
And so the story goes….. Get the box.