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FOETUS - Limb + Blow

ab032LIMB is an archival release of some material recorded from 1980-1983, from the early days of Foetus and pre-Foetus. Some of the pieces here have been previously released on the compilation albums. Parts have been released on various single b-sides. Some were excavated from old cassettes and some of it was reconstructed or re-edited from compositions on cassette. One piece is constructed from an organ part written in 1982, which I took the liberty of finishing in 2008. These pieces were made before the introduction of MIDI and sampling technology. 


Sick Minutes was originally recorded in 1982 at Lavender Sound, an eight track studio in South London where I recorded my first two albums, DEAF and ACHE, with Harlan Cockburn engineering. It's working title was "Six Minutes", as I conceived it as two three minute sections, but I was very ill the day that I was recording it and it got re-christened "Sick Minutes". The percussion is toy wooden marimbas, aerosol cans played with small mallets, prepared piano. You can also detect a tin whistle. I later took it to Wave studios in Hoxton Square where I revamped it and added the vocal loops which pushed it well beyond six minutes. The revamping session happened when I was recording the Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel album HOLE. I had created a lot of vocal tape loops by multi tracking my voice on 24 track. We then mixed these on to 1/4" tape in major and minor chords. We stretched the tape loop then I would "play" the tape machine as an instrument, pitching it with varispeed , and re-record that back onto the 24 track. I would mark the varispeed knob with a grease pencil to indicate the key notes that worked with the key of the song. Then those tape loop performances were submixed and bounced into an arrangement. This is the same method I used for creating the voices on "I'll Meet You In Poland Baby", like a mellotron without the mellotron.


The phrase "unmutual" that is sung at the end comes from an episode of the TV show The Prisoner, where Number Six is branded unmutual for being uncooperative. I seem to remember a part where the villagers converge on him chanting this. This piece also features acoustic guitars at the end, in one of the only times I have ever used them. It was released as the b-side of a limited edition twelve inch under the name Foetus Uber Frisco.

Ezekiel's Wheels is a segment of an improvisation in about 1980 which was later looped in a delay. I discovered this on a cassette of "bedroom jams".

The piece Te Deum is inspired by Bunuel's classic Exterminating Angel, which was my favorite film at the time. It was recorded for a cassette compilation called Bethel, which was compiled and released by John Balance of Coil. The whole rhythm track is made with prepared piano and toy piano. Te Deum was a hymn played in the film, (although this is not a cover version of that hymn), but I also like the wordplay on "te deum -> tedium". The piano was prepared with alligator clips attached to the strings and thumbtacks in the hammers, objects placed between some strings with others damped with gaffer tape. The organs detune from each other by changing the varispeed while recording. On this track, like "Sick Minutes", a lot of the parts cycle in different time signatures so they never intersect at same point. There are a lot of concrète sound effects spun in. Before sampling technology was introduced I used to spin in sounds from prepared cassettes, and use tape loops, or "play " sounds onto tape using pause buttons on cassette machines. Some of my tracks like "What Have You Been Doing" and "I'll Meet You In Poland Baby" were constructed almost totally with effects, loops and sounds and very few live instruments. When sampling became available, I embraced it as it was a new way to do what I had been doing - organize sound. 
I tracked down the screenplay of Exterminating Angel which was the source of the dialog quotes - "vulgarity, violence and dirt", "in a few hours he'll be completely bald". The "baa" sounds represent the sheep which the inhabitants see while entrapped in the room. This track and its companion, "Piano Piece", were noisy because they were mixed to cassette. At the time I figured it was for a cassette release, so why bother mix to tape? But Fred Kevorkian has done an amazing mastering and restoration job on this album.
The other artists on the Bethel compilation were Coil, Pure, David Jay, Nurse With Wound, Meat Puppets, Virgin Prunes, Romans, Boyd Rice, Doo-Dooettes and 23 Skidoo.

I discovered The Anxious Figure on a cassette. It was something I did manipulating classical records and using the pause button on a cassette player. I would force the records to skip and spin the turntable by hand. This version is edited down from nineteen minutes. It was originally intended as source material for something and never used. Background or fairground, I don't remember. What struck me listening to this was that there is a direct line through my work where I sometimes like to use dizzying repetition to the point of sensory deprivation. Sometimes this the beat turns around. Some examples are Wiseblood's "Death Rape 2000", the endless end of countless live versions of "English Faggot" right thru to the Manorexia chamber arrangement of "Zithromax Jitters" which ends with a phrase repeated hypnotically, building in intensity for five minutes.



The original full title of Primordial Industry was "(Decadence Is Rife In This) Primordial Industry". I don't remember why. The title of its partner piece Industrial go-slow is a reference to it being a "dub" version of "Primordial Industry" and not a reference to Industrial music, a phrase that has become much misused and I never identified with! I think I liked using the term go-slow (as workers on strike) when the piece is actually sped up. I turned the tape backwards and mixed it with tape delays, then reversed the tape again so the delays happened before the original signal. The studio had been using some new kind of noise reduction and when the mix ran backwards and then forwards thru the noise reduction it made the percussion sounds very sharp and explosive. I am banging on a metal tray, film canisters, keys and other things. This is an early example my use of vocal drone loops which I developed later. I play prepared guitar on this, hammering the frets on the neck.
It was recorded for a compilation entitled An Afflicted Mans Musica Box ,which was released by Steven Stapleton on his label United Dairies. The album also featured tracks by Jacques Berrocal, Anima, AMM, Nurse With Wound and Operating Theater. I made this under the name Foetus In Your Bed. 

The technique behind That We Forbid may be familiar if you have heard Steve Reich's groundbreaking 1964 tape phase composition "It's Gonna Rain". I used "It's Gonna Rain" as the intro tape to my live shows for a long time. When I hear it now it sometimes triggers an olfactory memory of smoke machine chemicals. The technique involves two tape loops of the same material playing in synch, tho one is slightly shorter or faster than the other, so they slowly go out of phase with each other and then return into synch.
There was a series of albums called Co-Star released in the late 50's. Various famous actors recite one half of a dialog and there is a script enclosed with the record. You can practice your acting by running lines with your favorite star. I discovered a cache of these albums as cutouts when working for Virgin Records. There were albums by George Raft, Tallulah Bankhead, June Havoc, Cesar Romero and others. They went on to become a great source of sound snippets and phrases, ending up on tracks such as "What Have You Been Doing?", "Get Out Of My House" and "Clothes Hoist". That We Forbid was built from a phrase from the album by Vincent Price. I found this on a cassette, although the quality of the recording was terrible and crude so I decided to recreate it in a fit of historical revsionism. I had to track down album again on e-bay as the sands of time had long since swallowed my original copy.
When I was living in London I started getting deeply into 20th century classical music. I was reading the writings of John Cage, and saw him perform with Merce Cunningham on the very day I received my finished copies of the first Foetus 7" from the pressing plant. Seeing Steve Reich's Drumming which was a transcendent experience. I felt like I was going to ascend thru the ceiling. 
The first Foetus single lists a bunch of projected forthcoming releases, one of which was a triple album called Foetus On The Beach. This was a reference to Phillip Glass' Einstein On The Beach, which I was obsessed with at the time. I devised my own numeric systems of composition which I methodically inscribed in notebooks, along with the order in which everything had to be recorded in order to maximise the use of eight tracks . Since I played all the instruments myself, I would build up overdubs, then bounce them to a single track then start over again. I had to know what order I'd record them in to make sure I had enough tracks left. All these elements informed the work.

I created the main melody for Sjogren's Syndrome in 1982 and stored on a Casio VL1 VL Tone. This is the same instrument famously used by Kraftwerk on "Pocket Calculator". It has a function to record a sequence of notes and play it back manually by pushing the "one key play" button. And of course it has a calculator built into it as well. I used this "manual sequencing" trick on several songs. I decided to work from that melody line and finish the piece in 2008. I still have my VL1 but I didn't use it on this recording. The melody seems to owe something to Terry Riley.

Echolation came from the same cassette as the material for "The Anxious Figure", and is also a manipulated turntable.

I was going to put the entire TO45 piece on this album, the B-side of "Custom Built For Capitalism". I hadn't heard it for 25 years and when I heard it and didn't like it. However, this last short tag which ends the track is so nice I decided to include it here.



Piano Piece is a phase piece without the drift. It is derived from the piano tracks under "Te Deum" before they were submixed, muted and altered. When I recorded on 8 track I bounced tracks together as I went along, so often early overdubs disappeared. I happened to run off this mix of "Piano Piece" before I submixed the pianos of "Te Deum". The music that "Piano Piece" embodies is all but inaudible in "Te Deum".
The first piano figure is joined by another two beats after it using a tape delay. It appeared on the Bethel compilation as well. I hadn't intended it to, but it was on the cassette that I gave John Balance and he snagged it and stuck it on there. I guess I'm glad that he did.

All source material for The Caterpillar Kid was derived from improvising tapes I made on Wasp synthesizer and Korg MS20 with a delay pedal in my bedroom in some squat in London. These were edited and sampled and formed into this new composition, so in effect its JGT 2008 remixing JGT 1980. Some of the material also comes from the tape hiss of the cassette recording the room.

I have put a bonus track on this album as an mp3. It is a twenty minute phase piece called You Have To Obey, recreated at the same time as "That We Forbid". It uses three loops of the phrase, intoned by Vincent Price, and briefly comes into phase three times throughout the piece between setting off into intense phasing rhythms and patterns . Please listen deeply and let your attention shift from one part of the percussive field to another.

 

Blow (2001)

ab033After taking almost 6 years off from releasing a recording, J.G. Thirwell isn't about to let people forget his name for at least the near future. In addition to a more ambient album under the name of Manorexia and the earlier full-length of Flow comes this follow-up remix album in which the 12 tracks get a working over by a wide variety of artists (including Thirwell himself). One of the good things about the release is that every single track on the first disc gets remixed, and only one track appears twice (so it fortunately doesn't fall into the category of a remix album that has too many versions of the same track).

At any rate, the remixers themselves vary from a crew that you'd expect to a couple names that seem a bit surprising. The disc starts off with a super dark reworking of "Cirrhosis Of The Heart" by Amon Tobin that churns along with a thick, rumbling beat and only a touch of heavily processed vocals. Originally probably the musically lightest track on Flow, it gets turned to something much more sinister. In another turn of events, Franz Treichler (of the Young Gods) takes the revving out-of-control original of "Need Machine" and comes in with a subdued mix that sounds surprisingly like the quieter work of his own group.

The best reworkings on the disc actually come from those whom I'd least expected to be on the disc in the first place. Pan Sonic strips down the 13-minute "Kreibabe" into a more digestible 4 minutes of harsh electronic banging while Kid 606 takes "Shun" and hops it up on his usual batch of glitchy drill and bass hardcore tomfoolery. On the other side of things, Charlie Clouser turns in a by-the-number industrial (even encoporating some of the same samples he used on a Nine Inch Nails remix he did) re-tread of "Quick Fix" and even the usually interesting Panacea turns in a pretty standard reworking of "Heuldoch 7B" that takes away all the sloppy big band fun of the original and leaves it with a plodding beat and default sound-effects.

Even though it sort of stands out like a sore thumb, the Ursula 1000 mix of "Someone Who Cares" adds something quite refreshing, somehow making Foetus sound like a breezy summer track replete with south of the border horns and a light guitar melody. The other Ninja Tune artist DJ Food also goes the uber dark route (like Tobin) and turns "Suspect" into an even grimier, more gritty version of the original spy-sounding track. Overall, there are some interesting things done on the disc and it's a definite must for fans of Foetus looking to hear the complimentary disc, but if you're looking to get one or the other, it's probably best to go with Flow. For Foetus Completists.

 

 

 

 

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