July/September 2018 – upcoming electronic gigs – Jim Thirlwell’s Xordox goes out in New York, London and Dublin with The The, Teeth of the Sea and Faten Kanaan (variously 2nd, 5th, 7th July and 17th September). Plus an awkward Foetus reminiscence from my past….

29 Jun

Jim Thirlwell, 2018

Jim Thirlwell (either that, or it’s Quentin Crisp’s dark twin…)

Long ago in 1988 (during my gawky teenaged years) I helpless, hopelessly, stupidly loved a girl. One of her responses was to play a trio of Foetus tracks at me an hour or two past midnight, in a room tinged with other people’s dope smoke – first Asbestos, then English Faggot and finally Hauss-On-Fah. I think she was trying to prove a point about her own wildess and non-conformity as compared with my teenaged uptightness: a point seasoned with an extra tint of sadism.

Filtered through unrequited sexual longing and sleep deprivation (plus some secondary stonedness) the music took on even more of a nightmarish aspect. First the screeching, ravening wall of post-Penderecki horror-strings; then a crawling, banging, hate-crime narrative rising to a lustfully murderous snarl; finally the compulsive dance track, enough to have you ricocheting round a warehouse in the dark before realising that you’re slam-dancing to a gonzo tale of racist murders, cocaine-fuelled gang-rape and of lighting out for the outlaw territories.

Given my increasing interest in out-there music, it was a kind of awakening for me, but at the time it was more a kind of uninvited acidic baptism. I’d never heard anything like it; certainly nothing so apparently malignant and evil. I could barely move from my chair. Overlaid on the music, in real time (like an extra overdub, or a cruel remix) was delighted, spiteful female laughter. I’d never managed to make her laugh so much by my own efforts – so there was me told. Perhaps, in a way, it was a slightly twisted message of friendship-but-no-further.

Anyway, it made for a pretty disorientating walk home at half-past-two in the morning. Hornsey Vale’s one of the more peaceful and genteel London neighbourhoods, but that night it felt like hastening through the Haddonfield of ‘Halloween’. Boing, boing, boing…


 
That was a long time ago. The girl’s grown up into a woman and moved to Hove, and we’re not even remotely in touch. I’ve no idea what she listens to now or what she thinks of it; or whether Foetus, for her, is just a memory of a few twisted tracks on a cousin’s long-lost compilation tape which happened to come in handy for baiting an unwanted suitor one bloody-minded teenage evening. As for me – I’ve learnt to appreciate transgressive art a little more, and am less likely to take dysfunctional nights and dysfunctional relationships so personally. I’ve also learnt about the background behind the noise; and have even flippantly bought the odd Foetus record myself, to tease a flatmate with.

Meanwhile, if Foetus’ boiling black humour and theatre of cruelty has lost a little of its edge for me, Jim Thirwell – the man behind it – hasn’t lost any of his. Back then he was already a cutting-edge industrial rock godfather. Now, he’s a long-established sonic progenitor for Nine Inch Nails, Gorilla Black and anyone else who’s picked up an orchestral sampler, a vicious horn section and a junkyard batter-beat with the aim of making mordantly joyous music for a world scripted by the darker angels of our nature.

Over the three decades since his music reduced me to nervy paralysis in Crouch End, Jim’s worked with Lydia Lunch, Electronicat, Nick Cave, Marc Almond and Cop Shoot Cop’s Jim Coleman; and he’s branched his extreme musical satire out across the slow crushing misanthropy journals of Wiseblood (his collaboration with’ Swans Roli Mosimann), the transfer of those flourishing post-Asbestos Foetus instrumentals to the Steroid Maximus project (where they can rant, jazz and gibber in full orchestra majesty without being pinned down by a song) and with SM’s freeform cousin Manorexia. At the height of his performance-art immersion, he wore fake personalities and conceptual skin-suits like all-over psychological scars (Clint Ruin, Frank Want) but since then he’s come to the party as just Jim – behind the music, a sweet kind guy in person and an unashamed music store geek who happens to be drawn to extreme subjects (and into reflecting Western society’s callousness and license for dysfunction back onto itself). For the past twenty years he’s also been part of New York City’s contemporary classical talent pool, writing for the likes of the Kronos Quartet and Bang On A Can, and has also soundtracked cartoon music for ‘The Venture Bros.’ and ‘Archer’ – two parallel endeavours which he takes equally seriously.

Jim’s latest project is Xordox, featuring a new instrumental direction to set alongside Steroid Maximus and Manorexia. Primarily synthesizer-based, it merges his existing electronic production expertise with extended use of the lateral thinker’s dream modular synths by Buchla and Serge. The results were unveiled last summer on the project’s debut album ‘Neospection’, revealing a Thirlwellisation of modular techno. While the hurtling disruptive Alto Velocidad is more remniscent of previous Thirlwell methodology, the only currently embeddable example of Xordox out there is the cosmo-Germanic rush of Diamond. See the video below (it tickles me how different the NASA CGI footage is from the cyberpunk/”Nazoviet”-inspired designs Jim used for the Foetus records).

 
Xordox have secured July and September support slots in Dublin and New York on the comeback tour for The The (with whom Jim was a collaborator and contributor, in particular on 1983’s ‘Soul Mining’). Also arranged are fairly short notice headline dates in New York and London for the first week of July (the latter hosted by top psych/noise curators Baba Yaga’s Hut. For the live sets, Jim’s being joined by an additional keyboard player (long-time collaborator Simon Hanes of Tredici Bacci) and will be playing in front of a visual backdrop by Swedish artist Sten Backman of Great Big Container.

 
At the headliner gigs, New York support comes from synth artist Faten Kanaan who’s “inspired by cinematic forms: from sweeping landscapes & quiet romances, to the patterned tension of 1970s film scores… focuses on bringing a human touch to electronic music.” Her Germanic romantic/horror textural blends are created by “live-looping them, sans sequencers or arpeggiators. In symbiosis with technology is an appreciation for the vulnerability of human limitations, imperfections, and simple gestures.” London support comes from roof-raising underground heroes Teeth Of The Sea who merge extended brass-laden psych-rock voyages with techno and rave methodology, updated for twenty-first century urban impulses.


 
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