Throbbing Gristle - Journey Through A Body

Mute TGCD 8 [UK]
Total Running Time: 39 min 14 sec

  1. Medicine (23.27)
    Catholic Sex
    Exotic Functions
  2. Violencia (The Bullet) (15.44)
    Oltre La Morte, Birth And Death
Journey Through A Body was Throbbing Gristle's final studio album, originally released in 1981 and eventually re-appearing on CD on Mute's Grey Area subsidiary last autumn.

The sound is pretty much what you'd expect for late period TG. A mixture of bizarre sounds and tapes, Cosey's ill sounding cornet and assorted tinkly-bonk synth work from Chris Carter, although there's also some nice piano work here. The album consists of five tracks - supposedly one per body section - although for some reason (hopefully a technical or aesthetic one rather than just laziness in remastering) these have been grouped into just two tracks on the CD.

First is "Medicine", which opens painfully with a high-pitched tone that eventually mutates the intermittent beeping of an ECG. The track itself is disturbingly organic - sepulchral breathing that suggests it was recorded inside the lungs, female cries of pain, and assorted medical noises ranging from the voices of hospital staff through to the sterile clattering of surgical implements. The whole thing's rather suggestive of a birth seen from the point of view of the unborn child, albeit one where the child probably has red glowing eyes and can spin its head through 360 degrees while vomiting green soup.

This leads (directly - same track on the CD) into "Catholic Sex" which is, for want of a better phrase, TG's attempt at what has since become something of an industrial cliche, the "female orgasm set to music" record. At the time it was probably fairly innovative - it had only been done a few times before - but since then it seems that almost every group even remotely connected with the industrial genre has had a shot at this type of track, making it extremely tired. TG's version takes a burbly little Chris Carter percussion track, throws in a bunch of Cosey's trumpet work, some bass synth, assorted industrial noise and the inevitable moans, groans and cries. Eventually Genesis's vocals appear and the track undergoes a transformation, as he slurs the vocals (which, given the title, are a rather unsurprising mix of sex and religion) over a subdued background of church organ. His appearance is brief, though, and the songs reverts to its previous form.

Next is the rather bizarre "Exotic Functions" - a piano rendition of what sounds like "Spanish Eyes" over a mixture of jungle noises, percussion and water noises that mutates into an extremely fast, tinkly little pseudo-Chinese sounding affair before turning back into "Spanish Eyes" again. It'd all be rather pretty if you didn't remember that this is Throbbing Gristle and that, given the title of the track and the exotic nature of the music, those water noises probably weren't water.

"Violencia (The Bullet)" combines screams, cries, guns being cocked etc with the sounds of a piano being abused, deep bursts of bass rumbling, typical TG noise guitar. Quite effective, although it does go on a bit and the assorted death noises lose their effectiveness through repetition - which I always thought was the sort of thing TG were trying to avoid. The final track is "Oltre La Morte, Birth And Death" is surprisingly pretty - pianos being used in various ways (played, plucked), deep rumbles etc - and probably the gentlest TG track I can recall.

It's a shame that what otherwise would have been an excellent release is marred by brain-dead tracking. True, none of the tracks here have the sheer shock content that characterised the group's earlier releases, but it's probably one of the group's most musical and inventive efforts and hints at what we could expect from the various members once they'd gone their separate ways.

Erland Rating: +2

Al Crawford /

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