Chris Carter
Photo: Courtesy of Mure Records via Bandcamp

Throbbing Gristle’s Chris Carter Re-Releases ‘Electronic Ambient Remixes Three’

Chris Carter, the architect of Throbbing Gristle’s sound, lets the ripple effects do the talking on the reissues of Electronic Ambient Remixes Three.

Electronic Ambient Remixes Three
Chris Carter
3 September 2021

Chris Carter‘s remix compilation albums Electronic Ambient Remixes One and Electronic Ambient Remixes Three have been out of print for the last 15 years. If you are serious about all things Throbbing Gristle, then you already know what you’re in for here. If you’ve been looking for ways to nurture your Throbbing Gristle curiosity outside the group’s limited catalog, this CD and vinyl reissue is an excellent opportunity to play catch-up. If you are new to Throbbing Gristle, then you are going to need some context.

Throbbing Gristle arose from an English-based performance art troupe called COUM Transmissions that were active from the late 1960s until the mid-1970s. Singer/artist Genesis P-Orridge and his then-girlfriend Cosey Fanni Tutti teamed up with audio technician Chris Carter and professional photographer Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson to create a new kind of mechanical music meant to serve as a backdrop to COUM’s disturbing images of sexuality and fascism. Fans of the band proclaim them to be prognosticators of what we now call industrial music. Their detractors referred to them as “wreckers of civilization,” as one conservative politician put it. Before disbanding in the early 1980s, Throbbing Gristle would leave behind a heavily influential legacy that easily outweighs their lack of mainstream exposure. Cosey Fanni Tutti would also end her relationship with P-Orridge and start a new one with Carter, both musical and domestic, which continues to this day.

Over the past 40 years, the couple have been recording electronic music under the names of Chris & Cosey, Carter Tutti, TGT, CTI, and Carter Tutti Void, as well as solo releases under their own names. To makes things even more complicated, they each have remix collections. The Electronic Ambient Remixes (EAR for short) are alternately divvied up the couple. Chris Carter has his One and Three, and Cosey Fanni Tutti has her Two and Four, with all four featuring complimentary cover graphics. Prior knowledge of their back catalog, both inside and outside of Throbbing Gristle, is not necessary to enjoy the music of the EAR series, but it certainly helps a great deal.

The ambient mixes of Chris Carter are so ambient that they drift towards isolationism. Sometimes, the beat will go missing, leaving the sound to hang there. If you’re not careful, you may forget that this music is playing. That isn’t to say that it’s bland or generic, but rather it is as subtle as electronic music can get before it becomes a vehicle for therapeutic applications. Where Throbbing Gristle were dark and confrontational, Carter’s ambient take on his past is dark and shy. Some source material is buried so thoroughly in the sound that you must take the track title’s word for it. Close followers of Carter’s career will notice the cheeky titles from EAR Three such as “Generic Terrorists”, “Heathen Mirth”, “Convicting People”, “Not on the Heels of Love”, and “Hamburger Man”. These tracks mainly plunder old Throbbing Gristle songs only to rebuild them in stark electronic nudity.

EAR One looks mostly to Carter’s 1980 solo debut, The Space Between, for its source material, not even bothering to change the names of some of the tracks this time. Where EAR Three runs a standard 48 minutes, EAR One stretches almost to the 70-minute mark, letting most of the 14 selections take their sweet time in evolving — provided that they do. “Interloop” can play tricks on the ear, depending on what volume one plays it. The accented downbeat that drifts in and around the pattern’s decay might confuse your nodding head if it’s played softly. “Solidit” has been singled out as the one remastered track to hit the internet ahead of the official release, and its constant higher-end burbling is no less inconspicuous than the rest of the collection.

It’s an unintentional compliment to say that these two collections, spanning almost two hours, are consistent. Not only are these remixes too finespun for their own good, but they land in almost a completely different genre from where they began their lives. As long as that is clear to you from the outset, these two EAR compilations can softly complete the picture for you.

RATING 6 / 10