Rising in the very early ’80s from the corpse of Throbbing Gristle, Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti (aka CTI, the Creative Technology Institute) infuse their electronic mantras with the beat of the factory to create a desolate industrial vision. Much of the work on Heartbeat follows solidly in Throbbing Gristle’s footsteps, with found voices playing over pulsating synthesizer sounds, while the remainder strives towards lightweight Kraftwerkian metal pop. (The cassette has extra tracks.)
Trance‘s songs unfold more slowly and deliberately, only reaching their final rock forms after passing through stages that frequently bear an uncanny resemblance to Gregorian chant warped into the future. As the title suggests, the mood is dark and contemplative; within the inventive and apparently emotionless electronics lie deep wells of terror and claustrophobia. Worth looking into.
Songs of Love and Lust has a distinctively icy sound, with precise, percussive synths not very far to the left of Depeche Mode. Cosey’s cold, distant voice, paying only passing attention to intonation at times, fits in perfectly amidst the machines. The problem is the songs — they’re highly repetitive and go nowhere. (Five of the LP’s nine tracks exceed five minutes.) Considering the pair’s background, this record takes few chances.
CTI’s Elemental 7, the soundtrack to a long-form video, consists primarily of tempo-less washes of synthesizers, bordering on ’70s-style space rock. Not very listenable as an album. European Rendezvous is a live set recorded throughout the continent in 1983.
Techno Primitiv is interchangeable with Songs of Love and Lust, dominated by unchallenging, mechanical electro-pop. Tempos and textures vary, but each track has an air of familiarity. One could possibly find some interest if the production were at least good, but the album has a really dead sound.
Still without a US record deal, Chris and Cosey signed with Canada’s Nettwerk and released Take Five in 1986. It begins with “October Love Song,” a song worthy of the Human League; the four other tracks fall between that approach and the pair’s previous work. The production is much improved; two numbers are remixes of early material.
The liner notes on Exotika explain, “Today we have tremendously diverse kinds of music,” but the grooves contain very little to demonstrate that these two are actually aware of that fact; each (lengthy) cut is an electro-Eurodisco variation on the same theme, introduced long ago. Again, the sound is nice, but other bands have done (and overdone) this same stuff much better. Chris and Cosey are just about up to the point of being permanently dismissible. (The Exotika CD adds Take Five.)
Trust earns them a temporary reprieve. The tracks are more diverse than those on Exotika, and Cosey’s voice doesn’t, for once, sound like a recorded message, which makes a world of difference. “Watching You” might go on forever, but at least she gives the impression of feeling the lyrics’ paranoia. The title cut is a haunting, predominantly spoken tone poem more reminiscent of the less abrasive moments of Throbbing Gristle; other tracks concentrate on sexuality and get fairly funky — in a sense. (The CD adds a remix of the song “Hypnotika.”)
The long, repetitive grooves on Pagan Tango are — structurally at least — not that dissimilar to industrial music. (In other words, Chris and Cosey are catching up to their own influence.) But as the techno dance beats and synthesized washes are trancey/pretty rather than bludgeoning/cruel, Cosey’s insignificant vocal contributions seem more instrumental than intellectual.
The Reflection compilation contains two selections each from the duo’s four Rough Trade LPs. The earlier work is refreshing to hear, as it serves to remind that Chris and Cosey have produced a variety of quality material over the years. Collectiv One compiles twelve tracks from 1983-’85.
Core is a project in which the duo collaborates with a half-dozen other artists, among them Robert Wyatt, Boyd Rice and Coil (thereby reuniting with former Gristle-mate Peter Christopherson). The variety of colleagues is reflected in the material; Chris and Cosey (as CTI) allow others plenty of input. “Feeder,” recorded with Coil, sounds cinematic; “Unmasked” is a chilling ballad with Wyatt; a cut with Rice marks a return to their industrial roots. Very little of Core revisits previous C&C releases; even a cut without guests steers clear of familiar territory, and features a (real? Fairlighted?) orchestra. An unexplained minute or so of quiet electronics separates each track. Very impressive.