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Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson
Live At L' Étrange Festival 2004: The Art Of Mirrors (Homage To Derek Jarman) Richard Fontenoy , February 17th, 2015 12:29

Shortly before his musical partnership as Coil ended following the death of Jhon Balance, Peter Christopherson performed a live soundtrack to his old friend and collaborator Derek Jarman's abstract 1973 Super 8 short The Art Of Mirrors in Paris. Sleazy had worked with Jarman on many occasions, including providing the music as a member of Throbbing Gristle for In The Shadow Of The Sun in 1974, Coil's highly-charged compositions for The Angelic Conversation, as well as their singularly psychedelic disco contributions to the director's final swansong, Blue.

Since The Art Of Mirrors is barely six minutes long, quite how Christopherson made more than an hour of music to accompany the film's screening is something those who were there can answer best, but ultimately it's more or less irrelevant to the music as it appears here. Split carefully across three sides of vinyl, the LP divides a continuous performance into what are now essentially three interrelated movements. Each ebbs and flows with the same hallucinatory feeling that so much of the music that Christopherson made with others has, especially in Coil, and it soon begins to seem that time itself has become far more of an unnecessary frippery than usual.

As each side of vinyl unfolds, Christopherson's adherence to his oft-stated intention that his music was made to provoke a change of state in the listener is fully apparent. Anyone who saw Coil or (to a lesser extent Throbbing Gristle) live will attest to their preference for hypnotic digital mandalas which were often as much a part of the experience as the music and their elaborate and sometimes bizarre costumes.

On his own here, Sleazy shifts and slides from deceptively calm stretches of almost-brittle digital electronics complete with passages of birdsong or human chanting into bass-heavy tremors shaking the floors like nobody's business. They fill up space with the pressure of spectral presences and tectonic rumblings. These digital ghosts in Sleazy's machine fall somewhere between later Coil instrumentals which aimed for a particular psychotropic effect on the listener (such as the epic, mind-altering Time Machines) and Christopherson's later work with Ivan Pavlov (COH) as SoiSong.

So while there are many recurrent elements for those already familiar with Sleazy's role in other groups – the  sampled hurdy-gurdy loops in particular raise a few neck hairs, and not simply because of their uniquely resonant trebly tones – the music is also identifiable as Christopherson pursuing his own particular ideas alone, and perhaps unfettered. The quality is generally excellent throughout, the dynamic range stretched nearly as much as it must have been over the venue's PA, and while there are occasional audience noises to be heard, they serve to give the recording a live atmosphere – it certainly feels like being in the room. Even if that means that all the coughs and splutters of a concert hall environment are therefore registered with similar fidelity to the music proper.

Amusingly, the end section of Side II sounds like a particularly irritating mobile phone ringtone is interrupting the flow at first, though it soon becomes apparent that something even more distracting is underway onstage. Side III is where the tempo picks up and circulating rhythms make their presence most thoroughly felt, loping under a procession of increasingly coherent melodies and the signature timestretched sounds which Christopherson made an uncanny Coil hallmark as the performance shuffles out in a cerebral electronic braindance.

Black Mass Rising have done a sympathetic job all round on this release, and the album is packaged with the label's customary attention to detail and eye for simple, effective design. Even more so than the recently unearthed Time Machines II, released posthumously in Christopherson's name last year, Live At L' Étrange Festival makes Sleazy's absence from the musical and corporeal world all the more pronounced.