Walking Through Heaven: Carter Tutti Play Chris & Cosey Live

Mat Colegate reports on Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti's last outing of Chris & Cosey, ahead of a new album of Carter Tutti material due later this year

Photo by shot2bits.net

Heaven is full. And I suppose it’s appropriate that so many of the audience at this sold-out night are wearing damask hues, because, in a sense, we’re here for a wake. Cosey Fanni Tutti and Chris Carter are tonight finally putting their Chris & Cosey project to ground, following a run of wildly successful shows that have gone a long way to reconnecting them with the kind of audience that simply wouldn’t exist without the couple’s forward thinking and ever-evolving musical strategy. Of course, there are ironies evident in the very idea of two such ground breaking electronic musicians doing a charge around the nostalgia circuit, but their return to the music they recorded after the breakup of Throbbing Gristle hasn’t been so much a play for easy recognition as an acknowledgement that a lot of what has broken ground since their heyday would not have been possible without them. We’re here to give thanks. And throughout their performance, they look justifiably pleased about it.

But first up is Nisennenmondai, a three piece from Tokyo who have had everyone I’ve known who’s seen them in rapturous conniptions regarding their ultra-repetitive woman VS machine assault. First up let’s deal with what they’re not. Nisennenmondai are not a band with ‘normal instruments’ (guitar, bass and drums, y’know, the classics) playing ‘techno’. A description that serves to cheapen their whole approach, almost as if they were somehow apologising for their choice of instruments or between them couldn’t work out how to programme a sequencer. There is no attempt to pull the wool over people’s eyes here, nor is this an effort to apologise for their ‘traditional’ set-up.

Nisennenmondai are the logical extension of a certain brand of rock’s attraction to extreme minimalism and  repetition, in a way that, yes, takes them close to electronic music at times, but also that feels inevitable and necessary and without a hint of contrivance. Indeed what’s striking about their performance is how those occasional, inevitable slips – the way the ringing of a high-hat goes on slightly too long uncorrected, the one note in the bass line that just over stays its welcome – serve to highlight the similarities between the two different genres; those essential questions of tone and timbre, that can make or break a 15 minute Plastikman epic, or a lump of bludgeoning riffage from Electric Wizard equally. This is music made with a near superhuman application of discipline and control. It’s less about pretending they’re using different instruments and more about pushing them – and the people playing them – to their absolute physical limits. The fact that it’s terrific to dance to – as the camo-jacketed space-cadet in front of me proves through an alarming sequence of ‘big-fish-little-fish’ hand signals – is certainly a massive bonus.  

So I go for a fag, grab a beer and head back to watch Chris & Cosey, and I can’t get anywhere near the stage. Heaven is bursting at the seams, it seems. So my only option is to go up to the balcony where I can at least be guaranteed a decent view. Of course, the problem with this is that I won’t be in direct pummelling line for Chris Carter’s MASSIVE KICK-DRUM SOUND, which, as somebody reviewing a Chris & Cosey gig, I am legally implored to mention at least twice. So there you go, that’s once. Actually, this could be seen as an advantage. Away from the duo’s propensity for thorax rattling sonics, I can take in the spectacle a bit more. If you take the raw physical affect of a live electronic music show away, what are you left with? In Chris & Cosey’s case the answer is pure adoration, and a set list consisting of some of the biggest hitters in electronic music.

Chris & Cosey make an interesting contrast to Nisennenmondai. Where the support act’s beats are rigid and monochromatic, Chris & Cosey’s are informed by the time in which they were originally composed, a period that saw huge leaps forward in all kinds of electronic music, from house and techno to hip-hop. As a result their rhythms have a groove and a shimmy lacking in a lot of the more industrial sounding acts they’ve influenced. This is especially reflected in Cosey’s stage movements – arm spreading a speciality – and some of the more awkward head bobbing from the black clad legions down the front. Goths VS The Funk: Will The War Ever End?

What’s immediately striking about their set – and something else that separates them from the acts that have followed in their wake – is how maximal they are. Carter’s rhythms are fully steeled, prowling like Maseratis through midnight cityscapes, while Cosey’s heavily affected guitar and slurs of cornet fill up the spaces with neon shards of colour. This is big music. There’s no quasi-Ballardian worship of information withhold here. Chris & Cosey’s music has a decadent opulence that makes it mouthwatering irresistible; like eating an opal fruit in an Arctic wasteland. Of course it’s emotional, too. This is the last time they’re ever going to perform these songs, so when they encore with ‘October Love Song’ – and I know people for whom that song means a whole wide world – it’s almost impossible to hear the intro over the massed sound of the audience choking back tiny sobs.

If it had just been left at that then no one would have had any reason to complain. Job well and truly done. But, ever the contrarians, C&C Music Factory choose to finish the evening with ‘Coolicon’, the absolute beast of a track from last year’s 10 inch of the same name. A piece of music that manages to be both brutally stark and sweatily tropical at the same time, and that, nigh on miraculously, may well be the best thing they play all night. At any rate, if it’s any indicator of what the future holds then I’ll see you all at Heaven in ten year’s time. Pack a hanky, it’ll be emotional.  

P.S. Chris Carter’s MASSIVE KICK DRUM SOUND really is very, very impressive indeed. Even from the balcony. There you go, that’s twice.  

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