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February 20, 2006

One Drone, One Life, One Purpose

Throbbing Gristle gave two concerts in Berlin recently. I could start foaming at the mouth and tell you that these were the two best concerts I've ever been at, and go on and on heaping superlatives. But it would be oversimplified, because other gigs I've been at were musically more interesting, intellectually challenging etc. To put it more precisely, on these two occasions, I had an encounter with My Music, period. As in Gysin's laconic statement: "You know your music when you hear the tune". So, if this concert would never have ended, I would have been content to stay there and have my batteries recharged endlessly.

For the first concert on new year's eve, Genesis wore pink net stockings, a pink top and a skirt with metal sequins. In comparison, other band members were a lot more unobtrusive, Sleazy particularly, at the back of the stage, kind of blending with the technicians even further back. Soundwise, Mr. Christoperson stood out, though, the general vibe seemed rather Coilish to me, but closer to the old TG aesthetics. Equipment was unobtrusive, too, gone were these elaborate self-made analogue synth switchboards of yore. They had gone digital, so Chris and Sleazy remained crouched over their Mac laptops during most of the performance. Chris also had something like a little theremin which he attacked occasionally. Cosey switched between laptop, guitar and trumpet, Gen between laptop, bass and voice. They didn't perform many of the olden songs, only "Convincing People" and "Slug Bait", plus, I think, the rhythm of "Still Walking" popped up somewhere. In the end, they performed "Hamburger Lady" as an encore, according to Genesis the "first encore they ever gave" which is probably true judging from all the tapes I've heard. Generally, the sound was less abrasive and primitive now, tendentially more similar to "normal" synth sounds, and most of their new material not only had regular song structures but even actual melodies. Some of it I really didn't appreciate all that much, but that was fine, too, they were checking out possibilities, so at least weren't copying themselves. Best were the new instrumental parts involving massive noise walls. Occasionally, my body got lost in these massive condensations of the sound you hear every day, layered so densely it takes you to another place that is somehow more real than every day (and which first looked like some sort of shopping mall to me, later like a battlefield). When the noise peaked, I felt at the height of my power too, for a few seconds, no body could have filled the space of my body better than my body at these few precious moments. From time to time, they were battling with technical problems of Volksbühne equipment, but they bore themselves admirably. After the main left speaker for some reason couldn't be made to work anymore (but didn’t blow, apparently), they just went on playing and one hardly noticed.

After the concert was over and I had come off, we walked across Alexanderplatz, dodging the new year's eve fireworks of former NVA soldiers, and visited two designer friends of my companion at Stalinallee (which is called Karl-Marx-Allee since Khrushchev and is now also called Frankfurter Allee in parts, but who cares). This location is rather interesting: the Stalinallee flats were a big architectural project, built almost immediately after the war, designed for privileged socialist living involving party members. They're big apartment houses in Stalinist style which I'd call classicist brutalism, somewhere between Art Deco, Nazi architecture and birthday cake decoration. Lots of white doric pillars in small entrance halls. We had a nice chat there, then went back to the Volksbühne for their new year's eve party. Rechenzentrum and T.raumschmiere played, which was sort of okay, but mere whipped cream compared to TG.

On the next day, entering Volksbühne for the second TG performance, I heard how the checkroom attendant disconcertedly asked a friend, if a Neonazi band was playing today, because "all these people with uniforms and badges and stuff" were walking around. The friend reassured her. That day, TG did a live score for "In the Shadow of the Sun". I think I already ranted about that movie, it's definitely one of my favorites, so this was a particular treat. In the centre of the stage, there was a big movie screen, the band hovered in the shadows, in front of two laptops at each side of the screen, Chris and Sleazy at the left, Cosey and Gen at the right. Gen wore rather unremarkable thingies and mainly worked on his guitar. They were improvising, their glances flitting back and forth between their laptop screens and the movie screen. Very subdued and restrained, but really powerful. The sound was trance-inducingly magnificent, a bit more conventional than the original soundtrack, but also more open and dense. The only problem was that I had had the notion that it might be a good idea to sit in the third row in order to see the band better. What's the big rule everybody? Yes, stupid people are always in front. So, to my right, some would-be freaks were chattering loudly and enthusiastically and stupidly through a fair amount of a set which demanded undivided attention. To my left, an alt.rock boy-girl-unit didn't appreciate the music much and made sure everybody knew. Behind me, a group of teens with Saxon dialect kept banging their boots in the back of my seat. It was hard to really give myself over to the sound under these circumstances, but when I got on the right frequency, it was like standing on the sun, the fire everywhere making very clear statements about the evanescence of life and the need to abandon all its so-called accomplishments pretty soon.


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