Sone Institute on Throbbing Gristle: Why I Love

Championed by the likes of Gideon Coe and Stuart Maconie on BBC 6 Music, Radio 3’s Late Junction, Roman Bezdyk aka Sone Institute, has just released The Narrow Gate And The Stone Clock on the Mystery Bridge label. It’s a psychedelic journey through altered states of consciousness, inspired greatly by Roman’s experiences of meditation and shamanic rituals. An innovative artist who uses live recordings, field recordings and various effects, it’s perhaps no surprise that Roman has put together a Why I Love on industrial Post Punk experimentalists, Throbbing Gristle.

It must have been in the early 1980’s when I first heard Heathen Earth by Throbbing Gristle. I found myself being propelled into a vortex, catapulted into a whirlwind, an alternative reality that sucked me in and spat me out, transformed. I’d been a big fan of Tangerine Dream and other electronic outfits but this was something very different.

Right from the very first blasts of the opening track, the sounds of an echoing cornet and churning analogue synth drones launched me into an aural landscape I had never ventured into before. Spinning and furious music. After a dizzying few minutes of this, a pounding distorted ‘gristleized’ drum machine fades in and a relentless spitting one chord (or no chord?) fuzzed out guitar launches a sonic attack. Confrontational, relentless fury, with the dead pan spoken word delivery of “the old man smiled’.” “Can the world be as sad as it seems.” “Do you love me? With my knife against your throat.” Disturbing, futuristic music and lyrics, yet very plausible – like William Burroughs, JG Ballard and Philip K Dick who also created mysterious worlds which adhered to their own rules. I was captivated, and half willingly dragged kicking and screaming along for the ride.

Heathen Earth is a live recording, performed in front of an invited audience. The music felt improvised yet structured – like a ‘concept’ album, but there was nothing prog rock about this. It was punk in spirit and industrial in sound. Machine music, unlike Kraftwerk’s clean and polished laboratory environment (which I loved), but instead from the grimy factory floor. The cover is dark and brooding, with what looks like a set of animals teeth on it. Inside the gatefold album cover, are black and white promo shots of a disparate quartet of people looking like extras from a non-existent crime documentary.

From Roman’s TG listening selection we’ve chosen Almost A Kiss:

TG were always DIY in their approach, in an unapologetic yet very calculated way. The fact that they created their own record label, Industrial Records, controlled all aspects of their music and artwork very much impressed me. They were ploughing their own furrow and showing everyone that this was possible.

Back in 1976, a Conservative MP had labelled them as ‘the wreckers of civilization.’ How wonderful to get such attention! This was around the same time that the Sex Pistols appeared on Today with Bill Grundy and caused outrage by swearing live on television. Attitudes and values were changing. I was still in primary school at that time. By the time I was in my teens in 1981, TG had already split up and I would avidly scour second-hand record shops and fairs searching out the vinyl treasures from these ‘wreckers of civilisation’.

I discovered that their output could go from playful odd ‘exotica’, into deranged pulsing and screaming mayhem via off-kilter sweet pop songs. Somehow these discrepant sounds were able to sit alongside one another with integrity. Something new flourished from their varied influences. A strange and exotic cocktail of sounds that was also very urban, and British sounding.  Challenging, confrontational, aggressive noise and outright beauty, with a dollop of uneasy humour thrown in for good measure.

TG’s disruptive, controversial sound and imagery is for me about taking a deeper look into ourselves rather than projecting ‘stuff’ on to the other. It is about naming and owning, and not just controversy for controversy’s sake. There is no polite ‘brushing it under the carpet’. I am reminded as I am currently reading Derek Jarman’s Modern Nature (TG did the soundtrack for his film In The Shadow Of The Sun that like Jarman’s films, TG’s music has taken on an even greater poignancy and potency in recent years. Their music pokes and evokes the heart, sometimes painfully through the ribcage with bloodied fingers. Uncomfortable but deeply and humanly rewarding. “Can the world be as sad as it seems?” Yes, it can be, but also it can be mysterious, mesmerising and magical.

Here’s Going To Hell In A Handbasket from the new Sone Institute album:

Our thanks to Roman for his Throbbing Gristle insights. Watch out for another TG WIL coming up soon…

Sone Institute photo by Michael Eden.

Sone Institute online: Website / Bandcamp

You can read more from our extensive archive of Why I Love pieces from a wide array of artists on an even wider array of subjects, here.

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1 reply »

  1. I bought DOA: The Third and Final Report in 1979 from Red Rhino Records in York. The shop was playing AB7A and the chap behind the counter told me that Gristle were “selling like hot cakes”!
    Although the more accessible AB7A was what had drawn me in, I fell in love with tracks like Hit By A Rock and Blood On The Floor; who were these people? They didn’t have a drummer!!

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