As half of the pioneering industrial noise anarchists Throbbing Gristle, Cosey Fanni Tutti and Chris Carter created some of the most jaw dropping, ear bleeding, experimental synth chaos of the 1970s, and were once branded “wreckers of civilisation” by pompous former Conservative MP Nicholas Fairbairn. Occasionally unsettling, often terrifying, always challenging, their work would later inspire the likes of Aphex Twin, The Horrors and MIA, but in the ’80s and ’90s the couple retreated to a dilapidated Victorian school house in rural Norfolk, where they built a home studio and focused their sonic experiments on primitive techno beats and avante garde electro-pop under the guise of Chris & Cosey.
The pair re-branded as Carter Tutti in 2000 and later re-united with Throbbing Gristle, but in 2011 they took to the road again to perform their work from the ’80s and ’90s. Instead of simply delivering a nostalgic greatest hits set, they remixed and re-imagined their old tracks to perform at the shows, and now under the name Carter Tutti Plays Chris & Cosey, the studio recordings of those remixes get a release. It’s an unusual way to do it, but Chris and Cosey have never done things by the book.
Whereas the original analogue versions were based around minimal, robotic electronica, tracks like ‘Lost Bliss’ and ‘Obsession’ are elevated into surprisingly glossy slices of arthouse trance. Cosey plays the role of seductress, nay borderline dominatrix, huskily ordering – “Touch me, make me cry, desire me”, whilst disco beats shimmer and strut. At times it sounds like they’ve created the playlist to a Studio 54-themed sex dungeon.
‘Beatbeatbeat’ is a more playful piece of android, acid house that could have come straight from the Hacienda, and ‘Workout’ makes a return their metallic, industrial, synth roots, whilst ‘Watching You’ packs military, cold war menace into a hypnotic wave of threatening dancefloor psychosis. Though less startling and lacerating than their reputation might suggest, this makeover of their past is done with fond affection and an ambition to prove they can still push boundaries. Album closer ‘Dancing On Your Grave’ does just that, swirling and brooding whilst Cosey gives her best luring, madam medusa purr and delivers another brace of lyrics that could be lifted from the pages of 50 Shades of Grey: “I kiss the sweat from your skin/ And lead you all the way in”.
The Throbbing Gristle legacy looms large, but this is a reminder that Chris and Cosey’s post-TG work merits more than and second glance. The image of the couple as two mad professors squirrelled away in the countryside, building their own synths and concocting endless reels of obtuse electro experiments is an alluring one, but this offering is far more accessible than that. They originally saw the project as a bookend and closing chapter on their past, but despite its occasionally retro feel, the album lays down a pathway forward to new audiences. Quite what direction this contrary couple will head in next though is anyone’s guess.
Carter Tutti Plays Chris & Cosey is out now via Conspiracy International.