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Carter Tutti Void (live at The Oslo Club)

Carter Tutti Void live at the Oslo Club September 2014London
16 September 2014

Mounting the stage with a promise of a different set to the previous night’s show at the same venue, Nik Void, Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti settle quickly into place behind a compact selection of effects boxes, mixers and other instruments. As the gig gets underway, the backdrop lit up by the slowly-cycling op-art imagery familiar from their début album projected overhead, the first audible and visual surprise is that Carter is flanked on either side by Void and Tutti, and they’re playing guitars. Certainly, both Factory Floor and CarterTutti have both always used the instrument, but it’s a striking image at odds with the sounds which the trio are generating. The electronic beat is strong, clear and propulsive, barely varying its base rhythm throughout the next 75 minutes or so, but the textures which all three smear over and around the hardy drum sounds are barely recognisable as coming from the guitars – at least not in any conventionally rockist way.

Drenched in reverb and saturated with other effects. the sounds which switch from speaker to speaker ebb and flow with a dynamic range which embraces both clangs and ripples, and that somehow simultaneously manages to smother and crystallise the atmosphere in the room. Growling, buzzing tones surge out from under a white-lit glare as the rhythms and attendant scabrous noises become increasingly death-funky, as perhaps only two members of Throbbing Gristle and one of Factory Floor could make them, spiralling in mordant, moaning vortices of hard beats and chickawacka sprawls dripping with curlicues of electrical energy. As the set builds in immensity, it does so in seven stages of development, each progressively accelerating the eager anticipation of the crowd, the three musicians deploying subtle shifts across an enveloping cavalcade of rippling accretions.

Carter Tutti Void live at the Oslo Club September 2014

Carter Tutti Void live at the Oslo Club September 2014

All those elements which Carter and Tutti perfected as Chris and Cosey and in Throbbing Gristle are served up and redoubled, not least thanks to Void’s contributions of astringent texture and shade. Void is an implacable force, sometimes sawing determinedly at her guitar with a drumstick or violin bow with the air of someone giving her instrument a good, harsh telling off in case it should even consider becoming too melodic. Despite the seemingly unswerving beats, there is plenty of polyphonic and polyrhythmic activity going on as all manner of tightly-controlled chaos kicks off in multiple dimensions as the set develops in peaks of ecstatic noise and the purest of psychedelic grooves.

Carter Tutti Void live at the Oslo Club September 2014

It eventually becomes noticable that the music and the visuals have entered into a different plane of existence, having successfully moved without obviously moving from lesser to heightened states of motion and emotion. By this point the room has warmed up to sweltering, having merely been hot and sweaty at the start. Clouds of echo shuttle across the soundscape as if immanentising the collective rush of blood through the ears of the group onstage and the crowd before them. The trio pile on the density, drowning the sound in echoed slathers of organic, living, breathing electronics which hover around the persistent drums, seemingly in sinister anticipation of an unspecified dread.

The music is by no means as dark as that description might make it sound; it’s more that there is a sense of urgency which overcomes the shamble – bop – chinstroke – natter modes of various sections of the crowd as Carter Tutti Void unleash their triumphant proto-industrial rave on the room. This being London, of course, few audience members are actively dancing; and if so, not too hard lest they lose their big city cool, despite the ecstatic sounds on offer. There’s plenty to respond to with the body rather than the mind, and the crowd does become more involved as CTV increase the pitch and ramp up the interplay between the functional core rhythm and the psychotropic shuffle of dubbed and distended, often almost nameless, sonics which crawl into the aether.

Carter Tutti Void live at the Oslo Club September 2014

Shuddering under the weight of looped, gutturally inhuman-sounding chants swirling in a hypnotic, rushing backwash which includes that dying mammoth sound which first Throbbing Gristle and then Chris and Cosey made their own, the insistent rhythm persists among the bastard offspring of cornets and other more obscure wind instruments, perhaps, married with heavily-effected vocals. Linguistic fragments seem to emerge from the intermeshed sound sources like examples of the language of those self-transforming machine elves which Terrence Mckenna conceived of in his MDMA-induced imaginings, clustered into collations of indeterminate pseudo-words, constantly proffering multiple possible (mis)understandings. There are sampled moans somewhere in all that sinuous energy, announcing and integrating with Cosey’s live vocalisations, some of the audience even throwing disco shapes into the air in response at this point as the relentless Carter Tutti Void disruption of space, time and sound continues and continues and continues. So and until the inevitable comes: the loops and scrawls rewind and wind down into a roaring storm of applause… and they’re done.

-Richard Fontenoy-

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