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Chris & Cosey / Nisennenmondai (live at Baba Yaga’s Hut)

Chris & Cosey live at Heaven 2015 - 4Heaven, London
15 February 2015

So tonight CarterTutti bid a fond farewell to their iteration as Chris & Cosey, and as expected the place is rammed to the rafters, as nobody wants to miss the end of this particular era. Prior to the gig my Facebook feed was a constant stream of updates telling me that one person or another on my friends list was going, and judging by the sizes of the groups milling around the bar, my experience was hardly unique. A lot of crews here, all ready to have some fun. And I’ve got an epic hangover, due to having been corralled into watching Frozen by the prospect of dinner and heroic quantities of booze (and to be honest I quite enjoyed it… it certainly had far better gender politics most other Disney movies).

And the fun starts with the support act, Nissenenmondai, who are already playing by the time we’ve managed to rally the troops and get into the venue. I’d not heard them before, apart from a fifty-second promotional video, about which a friend tells me “their show is like that but for half an hour”, which bodes well, because those fifty seconds were amazing. So what are they? They’re an all-woman Japanese three-piece, with the most traditional rock set-up you could imagine — a drummer, a guitarist and a bassist. But that’s literally as far as the Shonen Knife comparisons end. Somehow, for some crazy reason, their pounding 4/4 beats, faux-mechanised hi-hat trills and minimalist psychedelia combine to create a perfect replica of early ’90s industrial squat techno.

Chris & Cosey live at Heaven 2015

I’m not sure if this is retro-futurism, or futuristic nostalgia, or what the fuck it actually is at all, but it’s amazing. Sure, the guitarist has a bunch of electronics as well, but they all look pleasingly physical; no envelope-sized, apple-adorned one-touch box for these guys. (And, like Frozen, it’s a pleasing counter to the male-dominated world of much modern electronic music. Industrial music would be Disney in this scenario, which is pleasingly incongruous in its own right). And it’s bangin’. PROPER bangin’. Highly recommended; I could have watched them all evening.

Except I couldn’t, obviously, and actually probably wouldn’t have wanted to after all, because now it’s time for Chris and Cosey (the people, who are now CarterTutti, but tonight are playing the songs of Chris & Cosey) to take the stage and present the most authentic covers band the world has ever seen, what with being the original band themselves. Now, normally it would probably be bad form to obsess over their days as musical pioneers Throbbing Gristle, as they’ve been doing other stuff for far longer than TG were even a thing, but as tonight is all about laying the past to rest and I have a point to make, I’m gonna do it, even if just for a few words.

Chris & Cosey live at Heaven 2015

In my overly-simplified view of musical history, when TG fragmented their members went in radically different directions, each taking with them the elements they’d brought to the party in the first place. Gen built Psychic TV from his showmanship and cultish obsessions, Coil took the morbidity and the blackest of the humour, and Chris & Cosey took the often-overlooked soul and dancing shoes, as well as, of course, the cornet that gave TG that distinctive “huge dying animals on ice floes” sound. It’s a heady mix, and one that we’re treated to, apparently for the last time, this evening.

Chris is as always on Mission Control duties behind a rack of equipment, checking levels, ensuring all engines are firing correctly and that Cosey has enough oxygen for her missions into melodic space. Dancing, playing the aforementioned cornet, strapping on a guitar for some properly excoriating squalls over the top of those beautifully squelchy, living beats, she’s still every bit the consummate sonic astronaut. Last time I saw Chris & Cosey I was the fuckedest little pixie there ever was; tonight I think I’m one of the straightest people in the room, though forgetting to have any dinner before sinking a few beers has done the trick nicely.

Chris & Cosey live at Heaven 2015

It’s hard beat, but in a neat reversal from Nissenenmondai it’s too ethereal and organic to be the machine music so many of their contemporaries yearned for. Despite being as punishingly hardcore as the exercise machine that was Nitzer Ebb, and as totalitarianly (or something) thumping as Front 242, the human element is just as present in Chris’s electronics as in Cosey’s singing and playing. Beautiful melodies fall like gentle rain on pulsating masses of sound, and the whole thing’s quite overwhelming.

And then they’re done, reverting to CarterTutti for one last song before abandoning us to the cruel realities of getting home on a Sunday night. Before they leave the stage, they hug each other. I know how they feel. I want to hug them both too.

-Words: Justin Farrington-
-Pictures: Alice Nevermore-

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