The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Carter Tutti Void
Transverse John Doran , March 23rd, 2012 19:07

Add your comment »

"Launch me into space" - Nancy Whang/The Juan MacLean

The attraction of a good gig venue to a young mind - whether debutante or dilettante - is obvious. (Or at least this is how it felt to me when I was about 15.) A pitch black room full of weird older people, all angry, serious or drunk. Grilles covering giant speakers, bunches of snaking cables everywhere, mixing desks, monitors, blinking red LEDs everywhere, banks of strobe lights, malfunctioning dry ice machines coughing out belches of fog, mixing with tendrils of cigarette smoke and a haze of stuff possibly even more exotic. A carpet blackened with toxic abuse and awash with the DNA evidence of moral irregularities. A good concert hall to my teen mind was more like the galley or loading bay of some down at heel industrial or merchant class space ship - the kind that would be dreamt up by Andrei Tarkovsky or Ridley Scott - rather than just some licensed room with a stage and a PA down a provincial high street.

I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that when I was in my mid-teens it didn’t matter primarily who I was watching play loud, live music, so much as it was simply necessary that I was there full stop. The experience of being there - on the cusp of somewhere or something dangerous – especially after a few cans of Special Brew was enough to throw the rest of my life into sharp relief. This was the opposite of something I might do with my parents such as go to a suburban, red brick church, or visit my gran's chintz blitzed house or hang around in Argos for an hour while my dad chose a new ratchet screwdriver.

When we navigate the tricky path between teendom and young adulthood we lose something essential to our appreciation of experiencing live music. Or at least that is how it feels to me. We may feel mortified at how gauche we were just a few years previously but subconsciously many of us will carry on chasing fresh paths back to experiencing live music with virgin ears and eyes again well into our adult lives.

Excessive alcohol or drug consumption is a gateway for some back to teen abandon. So are many forms of excessive physicality associated with concerts such as punishing volume, strobes, light shows, heavy bass and pyrotechnics. But even live soundtracks, gigs played in unusual locations and old albums revisited in full are strategies to combat adult ear fatigue.

One band who place me in a deep space sling shot of sorts nearly every time I see them is Sunn O))) because each gig reminds me of the epiphany I had when I first heard a really loud guitar chord played with distortion through a massive PA, except now the chord has been time stretched and dilated to last for over an hour, is much louder, much heavier and is played by monks.

Sadly, I don’t actually feel like I'm in a space ship any more when at a gig. I'm too used to the interiors of all the venues I visit habitually, my imagination isn’t what it once was and the amount of drugs required to warp my perception to that extent would now probably kill me or render me insane. But under certain circumstances a profound transportation to a different (head) space can still occur. And in this process the concert venue is a vessel of sorts with the music acting as the fuel.

During May last year, the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm, North London was home to Short Circuit, a hugely enjoyable weekend long celebration of the MUTE record label. Friday the 13th already featured a formidable line-up including Richie Hawtin, Nitzer Ebb, Richard H Kirk and Alan Wilder’s Recoil, playing in a main room that looked more like the interior of an exploding gasometer frozen in time or a giant bass cone being pointed out at space, than it did a live music venue. But secreted away down a small corridor in the venue’s theatre space – for those who got in early enough at least – an extra special performance was taking place.

A bond developed between Factory Floor and Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti after the former played Cosey Club at the ICA (another fine and much under-appreciated London live venue) on March 27, 2010. At the time the two former Throbbing Gristle members shared a manager (Paul Smith) and a sound guy (Charlie Chicken) with the three piece and they were curious to see them in action. After the show, they realised there were many aesthetic similarities between TG and FF, even if they didn’t sound all that similar. Carter ended up standing in for Factory Floor’s Dom Butler when he took a few months sabbatical during the festival season and Nik Void ended up working on the Transverse project with the couple.

The four ten minute long pieces that were performed at the small space at the Roundhouse Theatre – known simply as ‘V1’ – ‘V4’ – were written and practiced at Carter and Tutti’s converted schoolhouse home/studio in Norfolk and then performed live on the night with all three members using electronics and Tutti and Void playing guitars. (Void also provided vocals that she manipulated with effects.) The way the trio faced the audience under minimal, unchanging white lights, heads down over tables of equipment was not combative but at the same time it didn’t even pay lip service to notions of showmanship or stagecraft. Yet had this tiny space been stage managed by Industrial Light & Magic the intensity of the performance could not have been any greater. (In fact, more to the point, the intensity would probably have been lessened.)

Carter told me recently in an interview that he felt that both guitarists were holding back slightly on the night. This may well be the case but it led to the most delicate of balancing acts in a form of music that is essentially a ballet between the scored and the improvised. The rigid frame work of industrial and techno in this instance provided the framework for freeform noise, as well as no wave and electronic improvisation. The guitars are harmoniously interacting in unison in their search for the disharmonious, the abstract and the abrasive, exploring the space provided intuitively and effectively.

If pressed, before hearing this recording or even knowing this was getting released, I would have happily told you this was one of the best gigs I’d seen in the last five years. So it comes as something of a relief to be able to declare this album utterly remarkable. (Not that the essence of a great gig is necessarily always captured by a mere recording but thankfully it was on this one. Thirty plus listens in and I’m still utterly captivated by Transverse.) But was there more to this inverse perfect storm than just a triumvirate of forward looking, mould breaking musicians being caught on a particularly great night? I’d suggest yes.

The conditions have to be ideal for something of this nature to stand a chance of happening and even then it’s not a given. However, I can guarantee you that there’s no way the blue touch paper would have been lit in any venue with visible sponsorship or branding. It doesn’t matter how good a film with product placement is, it will never be any more than a film with product placement. Actually I’d place money on the fact that any of the live albums or concert bootlegs that I consider worth hearing were recorded in venues completely free from beer or mobile phone branding (with the noble exception of Iron Maiden’s Live After Death no doubt).

Also, 100% of the audience have to be 100% behind the band. No matter how much you want to see a band, how much of a hot ticket it is, no matter how long it has been coming round, no matter how far you have travelled to see it, if even 5% of the audience are there under duress or because they got a freebie or because they simply feel it’s the kind of place they should be seen, then the ephemeral bubble of what these things are will almost certainly burst. (Wait a second, I hear you saying incredulously, is this guy reviewing a live album, bigging himself up for being in the audience? Well yes, I guess I am. Tutti told me in interview that the crowd reaction had been so electrifyingly positive on the night that she had struggled to put it out of her mind and felt in danger of paying more attention to that than the performance.)

Thirdly the venue has to have good sound.

When you actually stop and think about it, it’s a miracle that this gig was allowed - by forces outside of the group's control - to be as good as it was, and miraculous again that we have such a perfect document of it. Put simply, this is one of the most exciting live albums to be released in many, many years.


If you love our features, news and reviews, please support what we do with a one-off or regular donation. Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus. Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.

Joe A
Mar 23, 2012 3:25pm

A great recording of a great gig.

Proud to say 'I was there'.

More please.

Reply to this Admin

Mar 23, 2012 10:43pm

Good stuff, but what do they sound like?

Reply to this Admin

John Doran
Mar 23, 2012 11:10pm

In reply to :

There's a full stream of the album on the site:

That's the thing about modern music journalism. There's not really much point in labouring the description of music any more.

Reply to this Admin

Mar 24, 2012 5:53am

Holy shit, this is one of the most pretentious and uninformative reviews I've read in a long, long time. You're reviewing an album, brother, not writing an essay about the significance of live performances. If you think there's not much point in "labouring the description of music anymore", then I guess you chose the wrong career; you are, ultimately, reviewing music.

Reply to this Admin

Mar 24, 2012 6:47am

I don't know how many things were blown up and/or frozen during this self-pointed polemic - but one thing's certain - Jeremy Kyle's step needs the literary podge of Doran's potbelly.

Middle-England, ITV1 & The Quietus' Bearded Ponce can continue to daisy-chain 'modernity' whilst the rest of us live it. Go pretend to do poppers elsewhere.

Fuck, I hate old men that are hideously ugly, makes it hard to highlight the mid-life crisis... kinda oxymoronic. But it's no wonder there isn't a review here. It must be hard to stay 'analytical' when you champion Iron Maiden, don't have a hormonal imbalance, aren't fourteen, aren't pock-marked yet look like a LOTR extra who put too much stock into the land of Tolkien.

I liked this heart-warming life story though.

Add some pre-teen molestation and you'll be in WHSmith's bookclub with an award winning tragic life story. Actually, you won't need abuse.

Reply to this Admin

John Doran
Mar 24, 2012 3:09pm

In reply to Han.M:

Spoken like a man up drinking on his own at 6am. (5am to the poster before.)

Reply to this Admin

Mar 24, 2012 11:42pm

Having not been at the gig, watched video of the gig or been told by anybody how great the gig was I'm going to comment on the actual album. Crazy, I know, but there you go.

It's bloody excellent. The live tracks really sound like three distinct people utterly connected like one musical mind. Some of the interplay is ridiculously tight & subtle while other moments surprise. It's very easy to get sucked into the tracks due to their length and you begin to notice the small moments on subsequent plays.

The only major down side for me is having just one studio track just makes me want a few more to build the studio counterpart up in full. That could have made for an even more devastating 2 CD set.

If the only negative is wanting more then I think that says it all.

Reply to this Admin

Lucia Lanigan
Mar 25, 2012 12:20am

Yeah, what a brilliant record. Never really got on with Throbbing Gristle or C&C's records, but this is loose and textural enough to do it for me.
John, embedded media or a couple of sentences on the sound & link to the stream would have set this excellent piece off nicely for me. On the other hand, we’ve all been introduced to Han.M, who I hope to book for my niece's forthcoming 6th birthday party. (Boom! Roasted.) So every cloud...

Reply to this Admin

John Doran
Mar 25, 2012 8:10am

In reply to Carpathian:

Carpathian, to be fair to me, I do make a lot of the same points as you if not as succinctly. Best jd

Reply to this Admin

Mar 25, 2012 11:42am

In reply to John Doran:

Worry not, John - it wasn't so much directed at you as the fact that 75% of the writings on the album, here and very much elsewhere, seem to be about the night and not so much the music. For many of us coming to it without that much knowledge of the former it leaves us understanding that it's something special, especially as live capturings go, but not that much more up on how it is musically. That people such as yourself are taking the time to big it up and get the word out is still pretty great. It's just the whole dancing about architecture problem as ever I guess!

Reply to this Admin

John Doran
Mar 25, 2012 2:59pm

In reply to Carpathian:

I guess like a lot of journalists I really get worried about repeating myself or allowing myself to just trot stuff out on autopilot, so having now written about this album/live performance six times, that may have pushed me into a slightly more oblique review than I would have done normally. And this includes a 6,000 word feature for Self Titled magazine which will be online next week. But I guess a finer balance needs to be struck between what I want and what makes for a better read.

Reply to this Admin

Mar 25, 2012 4:50pm

Well, I thoroughly enjoyed the review. Don't let the bastards grind you down.

Reply to this Admin

Mar 25, 2012 5:58pm

In reply to John Doran:

I wouldn't worry too much, John. The reviews on here are still way ahead of most places and cover lots of things in depth others skim over. After all, we care enough to comment and you care enough to reply - can't be that bad all told!

Reply to this Admin

Mar 31, 2012 3:04pm

Don't worry, John. Some of us read The Quietus with our coffee every morning. And some of us are just useless Daniel and Han. Don't change a thing. This review actually may have just sold an LP for Carter Tutti Void. Loving it.

Reply to this Admin

Peter Shelley
Aug 13, 2012 9:06am

Great fan mash-up of the Transverse videos released by Mute:

Reply to this Admin

Jan 23, 2013 10:46am

I had to scroll past the first half of usual rock journalist bollocks to cut to the chase (as usual here and elsewhere). You need an editor!

Reply to this Admin