Wishful Thinking: In Remembrance of Peter Christopherson

March 21, 2012

I have been in anticipation of this night for quite some time. Since I first heard about it, I’d been eagerly awaiting the night when I could sit in the Tyneside Cinema and listen to new Throbbing Gristle Material. I don’t think I need to explain why.

As a remembrance to the late, great Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson, AV Festival have put together a full night of performances and films relating to Sleazy himself and the different projects he was involved with before his tragic passing.

The night was split into two halves. The first concentrating on music, the second on film.

The first performance was an amalgamation of sorts, combining pre recorded material, visuals, lighting and vocals to create one all encompassing performance. As the lights darkened, the candlelit table that adorned the stage was accompanied by Attila Csihar. The obscure performance commenced by playing out a Chris Watson recording of ‘silence’ from Durham Cathedral. The strange and interesting sounds filled the cinema with a sparse atmosphere. The natural ambience that we heard was interesting to say the least. The way it was manipulated in this setting really brought it into its own. The strange sounds emanating from the stage are accompanied by long, winding drones follow the ambient recordings making a sound that is both uneasy but also reassuring.  With that, comes Attila Csihar using his ‘operatic’ vocals to add an alternative dimension to the already rich texture of sounds. While this wonderful soundscape spreads throughout the room, we see projections of work by Alex Rose giving a sort of loose narrative to the noise we can hear. Something quite different, quite strange, but ultimately intriguing.

Next up, the highlight of the night and probably the reason that most of the people in the room are here for. Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti are debuting live remixes from the forthcoming Throbbing Gristle album. It really is as good as it sounds. The upcoming release from the industrial forefathers is a ‘cover’ of Nico’s 1970 album ‘Desertshore’. Despite it being a cover album, the familiar trademark sounds of Throbbing Gristle are as present as ever. Featuring a number of guests vocalists, this album has been made in tribute to the life of Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson, to continue the vision that he had.

Introduced by Cosey herself, the 40 minute set features live manipulation of recordings from the album. In true Throbbing Gristle style, an heavy industrial beat pounds out throughout the entire set, giving the backbone for the rest of the music to latch onto. Full of sparse instrumentation and ambiguous sounds, it exemplified the arcane nature of their work. Honestly, I felt myself forgetting that this was a cover of another album. The difference in sound and composition from the original is sublime. Glitchy electronics reside throughout accompanied by the howling of Coseys violent guitar work and her beautiful vocal work. As the set continued on, I felt myself being drawn in by the hypnotic wave of noise. I find it strange how Throbbing Gristle manage to make a sound that is both frighteningly dark and macabre, yet still manages to feel safe and comforting. It’s a weird feeling. How can something so brutal also be so calming? I’m not sure, but it works, and it works well.

The whole set sounds amazing. I could go on for hours talking about it, but frankly any words I write here won’t be anywhere near sufficient enough to do it justice. I think I could have listened to it for countless more hours without it getting tedious. A true testament to how great Throbbing Gristle are.

 

After a short interval, the second half of the night commenced featuring three films, all selected for their importance to Sleazy. First off, Philippe Garrel’s 1972 film ‘The Inner Scar’. A very mysterious  French art film featuring Nico, whose Desertshore album provides the soundtrack. With very loose narrative, focusing on long, slow tracking shots with numerous luscious landscapes as an accompaniment this film looks more at the beauty of things, rather than their meaning. A completely self absorbed, self indulgent outing in film, but still one that has a strong impact. Chosen for it’s importance to Sleazy and this Throbbing Gristle project in particular, it seemed only fair to include this rarely screened film. Sadly, my viewing pleasure was ruined by a bunch of annoying, giggling, loud talking gentlemen in the row behind me. I’m not going to start a rant about them, but it really was uncalled for and downright rude. I think I’m going to have to re watch The Inner Scar to truly appreciate it. Even with the distractions, it still felt special to see the film in such a unique setting.

The next two films, by director Derek Jarman, both feature soundtracks by Coil, another experimental music group of which Peter Christopherson was a founding member. To start with, a short film entitled ‘Journey to Avebury’. A beautiful piece of cinema, taking us on a simple yet compelling journey. A very relaxed soundtrack from Coil merged perfectly with the visually appealing landscapes shots within the film. A small 10 minute adventure in sound on vision giving a slower, subtler tone to the evening. I think this definitely helped me recover from the annoyance of the audience in the previous film.

The final part of the night was Derek Jarman’s ‘The Angelic Conversation’. A very ‘arty’ film that had a great significance to Sleazy, hence it’s screening tonight. Audio wise, it sounded perfect. With another soundtrack by Coil, it managed to convey a really thick, dense atmospheric sound. Similarly, the avant-garde nature of both the director and the band go hand in hand offering a perfectly bizarre and fascinating presentation. However, as far as the film is concerned I couldn’t quite get into it. It lacked a cohesive narrative and personally felt it more tedious than enjoyable. While i mentioned earlier that the self indulgent work of Philippe Garrel worked for me, Derek Jarman seems to have been a little too indulgent so as to alienate the audience. I like to think I’m fairly open minded, but the distinct lack of structure really put me off enjoying it. Nevertheless, it’s still interesting to try and understand how something will appeal to others. I think the fact that I found it so uneasy to watch gives me a respect for the director to deliver a film so simple yet with such an impact.

 

A full night of all things Peter Christopherson. Films, music, performances, everything was present. A truly wonderfully enjoyable night. A true genius who will always be missed.

 

Thanks to AV Festival for giving us the chance to experience this night.

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3 Responses to “Wishful Thinking: In Remembrance of Peter Christopherson”

  1. dil23 said

    Great article (I was there!) covers the evening’s remebrance/celebration very well, thanks.

  2. geotekno said

    I wish I could have attended ‘Wishful Thinking.’ Thank you for the imagery. 🙂
    and the musick remains…

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