on 1 June 2001
This recording should serve as an ideal introduction to TG. It is in turns dreamlike, disturbing, dissonant and downright scary. Overall perhaps the most consistent in content, ambience and execution of all their works. The material and performances captured on Heathen Earth effectively conveys TG's innovative marriage of thoughtful yet playful anti-establishment, anti-conformism propaganda with their novel approach to confounding our musical expectations. If you haven't checked out TG then buy this CD, then graduate to an adult dose with 'D.O.A.' and 'Second Annual Report'. Otherwise, stay safe as milk and listen to standard issue corporately-endorsed rebel music.
Recorded live in the studio with an invited audience and mixed shortly after, Heathen Earth was an attempt to display the live sound of TG which some may not have got from the eclectic DOA: The Third & Final Report and 20 Jazz Funk Greats albums (though to confuse matters it includes Adrenalin and Subhuman which featured on the singles released between albums that included tracks like Something Came Over Me, United, Zyklon Z Zombie, We Hate You Little Girls & Distant Dreams Part Two). Heathen Earth is seen as one of the examples of the pure harsh sounds of TG, though there are pop elements here in the form of Chris Carter's electronics.
Heathen Earth, despite the curious song-titles, does feature reworked versions of material already familiar as well as new material. The track listing makes more sense as 1. Cornets 2. The Old Man Smiled 3. After Cease to Exist 4. The World is a War Film 5. Dreamachine 6. Still Walking 7. Don't Do As You're Told, Do As You Think 8. Painless Childbirth .The cornet sounds used on 20 Jazz Funk Greats is advanced here, notably on the opening introduction Cornets/Rhythms (Chris) and the epic mantra Don't Do As You're Told.../Binaural Left.
As an eight-track sequence Heathen Earth works wonderfully, the intro building into a reworked version of 20 Jazz Funk Great's Six Six Sixties now retitled The Old Man Smiled as it features a new lyric influenced by William S Burroughs and a séance. It's much longer than the version of 20JFG and has wonderfully dirgey guitar and bass from Cosey and Genesis. The third track Bass Guitar (Gen) is a seven-minute revised take on early track After Cease to Exist - a song which was the soundtrack to an early COUM transmissions film and featured on debut LP The Second Annual Report. I think this version is superior in terms of recording and approach, feeling like an avant-dub take on the original which sounded like a dirgey relative of Phaedra-Tangerine Dream or New Age of Earth-Ashra.
The World as a War Film/Cornet, Tape (Sleazy) has a title that sounds like a chapter in JG Ballard's The Atrocity Exhibition and a sound that appears to have elements of previously issued TG-material, again it feels dub inflected. At just under eight minutes Dreamachine/Cornet, Lead Guitar (Cosey) will sound familiar, having the feel of stuff like Distant Dreams and Walkabout and what appears to be the song that would become single Something Came Over Me. It's closest to the TG-era material found on Chris Carter's great solo album The Space Between.
Still Walking/Synthesisers (Chris) shares a title with a song from 20JFG and the same contrast of vocals from Cosey and Sleazy - though the lyrics are completely different. A conversation between a male and female that is abstract and apparently sexually themed occurs - a drone works brilliantly against the lead vocals which are speeded up and slowed down at will, reminding you how unradical Radiohead were when they did this thing with Thom Yorke's vocals on 2000's Everything In Its Right Place. This is one of the reasons why a lot of music seems quite tame and why Kasabian should be shot for alluding to Faust!! Following an interlude section towards the end of Still Walking, Genesis and the cornets are back and vying with each other with the epic mantra to self expression Don't Do As You're Told...a hypnotic piece of repetition that is like a funhouse version of a later track like Discipline. Heathen Earth finally concludes with the brief Painless Childbirth/Binaural Right - a tape piece from Sleazy that feels like a relative of bufferin' memories.
Heathen Earth is probably my favourite TG album, but I probably say that about all of them. It's probably the place to go after a compilation like Taste of TG or Greatest Hits- Entertainment Through Pain and an easier album like 20JFG. None of it featured on either compilation, so if it's the live sound you want this is the best place to start, then follow with the wild Mission of Dead Souls before exploring the box-set world of TG!
on 8 August 2001
The definitive documentation of TG's live sound - the TG Live boxed set is naturally more exhaustive and varied, but for a full, unedited raw set, you can't beat this album, which was recorded live in front of an invited audience. The bonus tracks on this CD are Adrenalin and Subhuman. Adrenalin anticipates rave music, and the lyrics are among Gen's most personal, relating to a childhood medical complaint.
The entry point to the TG dystopia. People arriving in new virgin lands after wandering previous musical worlds will hit a harsh sullen marsh full of new sounsds. TG at the time were lonely pioneers, signalling a vacancy to all and sundry.
Out of these albums arose a multiplcity of genres. Everything from Lustmord, SPK, Neubauten, Test Dept, Clock DVA, Joy Division, Nine Inch Nails to Prodigy. At the time they played to audiences of 20-40 people per gig. At the infamous ICA they played with Chelsea as the wreckers of civilisation. The key was saying no to any form of formal training, a desonstruction of form in an era when Frampton, Genesis, Yes and a thousand other middle brow constructs created a far safer world based upon denial of this one.
As the years have arced across the skyline the early TG sounds seemingly dated quicker than paper left in sunlight turning a browm crisp yellow. What ignited the worlds in 1977 seemingly has little effect in 2011. Not because the music of 77 is inferior but the 21st century sensibilities are less intense. The focus on traversing the norm has long since shifted its energy. Now the concern is around accomodation rather than overcoming.
The art objects from the 70's are pieces of gold micron encased in the embalming encasement of crystal quartz, waiting to be discovered, mined and melted in sonic bars of aurora.
This CD is at the font of eveything that flowed afterwards that offered a deeper meaning. It also lies along a trajectory including the Velvet Underground, Iggy, Kraftwerk, Elvis, Little Richard and the Sex Pistols as a marker of someone rising above the surface.
The first track is an underwater wind instrument treatment, dream slurs of ghost whales crashing through the night. Then the machine rhythm of distorted guitar with Genesis sleepwalking through a maelstorm. Distended effects evoke a hall of mirrors where the mind wanders through an elipse, the type of music that would create a soundtrack for modern horror; the true journey inwards of a returning GI.
Offering more stucture than the first two reports, Genesis's voice is kept to a sombre turgid minimum as he intones his thoughts from the bottom of a depression. The emphasis is on sonic distortion of perception, a type of intelligent Kraut acid house based on a post anti 60's love in sensibility. Ideas heavily structured upon abstract art of the DADA-German Expressionism-Surrealism rather than borrowing from riffs from Chuck Berry and the Beatles. This is the key divergence. This owes nothing to the African forms of music. Aimes squarely at the underbelly of a corpulent society preened itself on class, snobbery and amnesia this found the animal in the human and raised it onto a pedestal.
Large chunks of synth loops and proto industrial Neubauten type beats. There is the Coil like rhombus synth scapes. Spoken word of Cosey around perception and enforcement.
It is an attack on the perception. No longer as alien as when it first emerged but neither has it been assimilated.
Listen to reflect.
on 15 September 2008
I do not know whether or not all people should be permitted to listen to this album. The fact that it exists as a commercial product at all, I can only regard as an accident of history, made more permanent by circumstance than by intent. I feel there are those who should be allowed access to such material; and those to whom it should be denied. Not only would this make good marketing sense, but it would also appeal splendidly to the spiritual and emotional selfishness which motivates those who will not, under any circumstances, follow any flag.
I am informed by many commentators that this recording is in some way a work of art, more than an album of contemporary music; regardless of how either perceived phenomenon is to be defined. I am inclined to disagree. I would say that it is neither. This is just one of those starting points, that a group of people reached here, at a juncture in their lives that had nothing to do with anybody who might have been listening; and for precisely that reason, can be regarded as relevant to anybody who might lay claim to its function as a means of access.
These starting-points are difficult to achieve. So difficult, in fact, that there are many who cannot encounter them without frantic cries into the void which suddenly and briefly opens before them there; "drugs," "sex," "magick," "divinity," "the sacred;" something to believe in.
There is nothing to believe in here. Recognise that, before you pick up the disc, and open something of which there are precious few examples so easily available.
For this, I forgive Mr. Orridge the lamentable "Godstar," and all of his many other, not similar, errors.
on 15 November 2006
Hard to describe this. Perhaps an apt comparison would be with Samuel Beckett's play "Breath", another piece of Art which relates the hell of existence. It's not surprising that Throbbing Gristle (on the sleeve at least) neglected to give these songs titles - there's no need. Anyone with a pulse should understand perfectly well what's being got at here.
In short, what a hell of a way to end. Perhaps not their greatest ever work, I still think that title belongs to "DOA." However perhaps it is their purest work, a razor sharp dead vision. One listen to track 4 will tell all.
I can really only think of one of their key influences works for any kind of precedent, namely the black hole of The Velvets "White Light/White Heat" album. Apart from that...who knows?
A true full stop.