The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Total Leatherette
Sleight Of The Third Eye Melissa Rakshana Steiner , July 6th, 2020 07:45

Total Leatherette get rough on their self-released new cassette

Glasgow/Berlin based duo Scott Caruth and Nikki Tirado, performing as Total Leatherette, create suffocating, sexy, industrial dance music that invokes the overlapping layers of queer spaces: bodies and labour, cruising and performance, anxiety and the dancefloor.

Sleight Of The Third Eye is the band’s third album and first self-release, and has a rougher, more experimental aesthetic than previous studio releases. It pulls us further into the darkroom via infinite corridors of paranoia-inducing electronic beats, splintered noise, cavernous vocals and deep, creeping funk.

The album was recorded during the band’s 2018 Creative Lab residency at the Centre for Creative Arts (CCA) in Glasgow, a space previously known as The Third Eye Centre. Recorded directly into a single mixer with minimal opportunity for the band to tinker with it afterwards, the resulting work is a near-continuous mix lasting approximately fifty minutes, giving it the immediacy of a live performance.

The location of the residency was salient to the work: both Caruth and Tirado have also worked at the CCA, as a waiter and a chef respectively. As part of the residency they performed an eight-hour exploration of the 1986 Balaeric classic ‘My Boss’ by Linda Di Franco, an accidental hit about the singer’s blurred relationship with her lover/manager. Total Leatherette similarly aimed to explore the contradictory experiences of being both workers as well as performers for the CCA. What does it mean when anxiety and anger are expressed by the waiter or performed by the artist? What sleight of hand allows this to be punished or praised within the same space, the same queer body?

Elements of the durational piece weave into Sleight Of The Third Eye but though drawn from this artistic context, the album definitely belongs on the dancefloor. The continuity builds an immersive dark disco, while raw elements, like percussive breaks sounding like drumsticks on a poured concrete floor, unexpectedly break the hypnotic tension, snapping the listener back to focus.

It’s an intense listen, but personally I felt prepared for it. This age of pandemic is the perfect time to be asking questions about the value of our labour versus the value of our lives, and with this album, Total Leatherette provide a conduit for months of anxiety, interspersed with cathartic moments of hedonism. Listening to it on my afternoon walk around the neighbourhood - a strange juxtaposition – made me wonder what queer night life will look like in the months ahead.

The band has previously mused on the experience of half-empty queer spaces during the height of the AIDs epidemic. Without wanting to conflate public health crises with vastly different sociopolitical contexts; I wonder if will we be faced with similar anxieties about presence and absence if we venture back out into the night? Total Leatherette provides us with a soundtrack to work through these difficult questions.