CHRIS CARTER’S CHEMISTRY LESSONS VOLUME ONE
Seventeen years on from his last solo release, the twenty-five tracks collected on Chris Carter’s Chemistry Lessons Volume One (CCCL Volume 1) were the product of six years spent working on solo material in the Norfolk home studio he shares with Cosey Fanni Tutti. CCCL Volume 1 reinforces Carter’s significant but often under-appreciated role in the development of electronic music - a journey that for Carter started ahead of his work with Throbbing Gristle (alongside Cosey, Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson and Genesis Breyer P-Orridge), and continued through Chris & Cosey, Carter Tutti, Carter Tutti Void as well as his own solo and collaborative releases under his own name.
Here you will find music with a distinctly futuristic leaning, with insistent melodic patterns and a distinct sense of wonderment at the limitless possibilities of science. “If there’s an influence on the album, it’s definitely ‘60s radiophonic,” Carter agrees. “Over the last few years I’ve also been listening to old English folk music, almost like a guilty pleasure, and so some of tracks on the album hark back to an almost ingrained DNA we have for those kinds of melodies. They’re not dissimilar to nursery rhymes in some ways.”
That combination of traditional music and the backing track for exciting, potential futures gives tracks like ‘Moon Two’ and ‘Tangerines’ a sheen of inquisitiveness and quiet euphoria, while ‘Modularity’ and ‘Roane’ have an anxious, sci-fi noir charm. Elsewhere, the skewed voices of the meditative ‘Cernubicua’ add a calming, human note to the album, even if deciphering any specific lyrical content is largely impossible. “That's completely intentional,” says Carter. “Sleazy and I had worked together on ways of developing a sort of artificial singing using software and hardware. This was me trying to take it a step further. I've taken lyrics, my own voice or people's voices from a collection that I'd put together with Sleazy, and I’ve chopped them up and done all sorts of weird things with them.”
Carter began the foundation work for what became CCCL Volume 1 in the years before Sleazy passed away in 2010, and the death of Carter’s fellow TG journeyman had a profound effect on the development of the album. “I’d been accumulating a lot of material, just tracks and elements of tracks, and I was going to start putting it together just before Sleazy died,” he says. “That’s what completely threw me, and that’s partly why it’s taken so long, because of dealing with the shock of that.” Carter describes going through a long grieving process which manifested itself in some of the darker, more introspective tracks appearing on the album.
These moments sit alongside tracks where melodies have a dissonant, noisy, awkwardness that ties the music on CCCL Volume 1 back to the Throbbing Gristle legacy. “I think that’s because I don’t read music,” laughs Carter. “I have no musical skills at all, and so everything I do is done by ear. I can’t even play keyboards properly. I have to have the letters written on the keys because I’m musically dyslexic. I think maybe that helps in a way. It means I use chords or notes that don’t always, or shouldn’t always, go together. It gives my music a weird offset.” This approach yields results like ‘Uysring’, where sounds flutter ominously around a nagging, muted beat like a faltering electrical current, or ‘Post Industrial’, where mechanistic rhythms vie for attention with murky, noxious sounds and heavy, stuttering repeated half-melodies.
Underpinning all of Carter’s endeavours from the pivotal industrial gestures of Throbbing Gristle onwards is an attitude best described as ’if you don’t own it, make it’. From the legendary Gristleizer home-soldered effects unit through to the Dirty Carter Experimental Sound Generating Instrument and the sold-out TG One Eurorack module designed with Tiptop Audio (issued to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of Throbbing Gristle’s Second Annual Report), Carter has never shied away from creating the means to make sounds as well as making the sounds themselves. “It’s about making the best of what you've got,” says Carter. “I think that makes you more productive. When there's a limit on what you've got, you tend to get the best out of it. You push it as much as you can, and you find unique ways of using it that it wasn't designed for.”
That self-sufficient discipline also saw Carter designing the visual presentation to accompany CCCL Volume 1, taking his cues from battered old experimental BBC broadcast LPs that can be found in the racks of charity shops across the land, and echoing the interest in the music that partly inspired the design of these tracks. “It’s just something Cosey and I have always done,” says Carter on this utilitarianism. “People have been getting in touch with us asking if they can do sleeve designs and videos for us for years, but it’s just something we’ve always done ourselves. We’ve always kept it in-house. We’re like a cottage industry, and we always have been. It’s just something that’s part of our process. If we’re going to put something out, we always have a vision of how we want it to be, and how it should be presented to people.”
Despite having been worked on over an extended period between various artistic projects in a variety of different moods, situations and circumstances, CCCL Volume 1’s experiments never feel like Carter noodling around aimlessly in his studio-laboratory. Instead there is an inner coherence and a distinctively Chris Carter approach to sound and execution. It’s an endeavour that places CCCL Volume 1 comfortably alongside everything else that this sonic scientist has been involved in, and yet one that showcases a restless, questing creative spirit forever scouting for new ideas.
Chris Carter’s Chemistry Lessons Volume One will be released on 30 March 2018.
Born in London, England Chris Carter is best known for being a founder member of Throbbing Gristle and one half of electronic duo Chris & Cosey (aka Carter Tutti). His long time partner Cosey Fanni Tutti is the mother of his son, Nick and is also a member of TG.
He began his career in the late 1960's working for various TV stations (Thames, Granada and LWT) as a sound engineer on numerous TV shows and documentaries. This gave him an invaluable grounding in working with sound, audio techniques and theories. He also got more involved in the visual side of entertainment and performance, which eventually progressed into designing and presenting light-shows and visual effects for numerous festivals, events and performances, including bands as diverse as Yes and Hawkwind. This work led to commissions for BBC TV shows, Colour Me Pop and The Old Grey Whistle Test.
By the early 1970s' Chris was touring universities, colleges and arts centres with a solo, multimedia show playing his self-built modular synthesiser, keyboards & effects and incorporating a myriad of lighting effects gleaned from his previous light-show work. During this time he also worked extensively with visual artist John Lacey on a series of 8mm & 16mm experimental films and multimedia presentations. In the mid 1970s', and through his connection with John Lacey, Chris began an experimental music/sound collaboration with Cosey Fanni Tutti and Genesis P-Orridge, who at the time were also performing as COUM Transmissions with Peter Christopherson. The results of this musical collaboration was the creation of the now legendary Throbbing Gristle and Industrial Records… and the birth of the 'Industrial Music' genre. In 1976 Chris worked at the London bureau of the ABC News agency as a sound engineer and during that time designed and constructed their London radio studio. In 1977 he was offered a contract to build another ABC studio in Rome but turned it down to continue his involvement as a member of Throbbing Gristle.
During the early years of TG the four members each continued with other solo projects and work. It was during this period (1980) when Chris recorded his first solo album for Industrial Records titled 'The Space Between', (now available on Mute Records). Shortly after the demise of Throbbing Gristle in 1982 Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti formed the Conspiracy International record label CTI (with backing from Rough Trade Records) and began working together as Chris & Cosey and also as CTI. Initially releasing only music they soon moved into producing video works and with the help of Doublevision released a number of CTI experimental video films and soundtracks. In 1985 Chris released his second solo album Mondo Beat. As well as successfully touring all over the world Chris & Cosey also recorded and collaborated on innumerable releases, most notably with Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart, Robert Wyatt, Coil, Lustmord, Monte Cazazza and many more. Chris & Cosey have also remixed tracks for Mortal Loom and Erasure. In 1994 Chris moved also into journalism and regularly has technical articles and reviews published in UK magazine Sound On Sound.
Chris is also a keen photographer and in collaboration with Cosey Fanni Tutti has designed and produced numerous album covers, posters and art works. 1995 saw Chris return to solo performance work after a gap of some 15 years. In 1998 Chris released a compilation CD of tracks from his 1995 Disobey tour: Disobedient, and In 2000 he released a solo studio album: Small Moon. 1998 also saw the release of Caged, a collaboration album with electro musician Ian Boddy.
In 2000 Chris, in collaboration with Cosey Fanni Tutti, began producing and releasing a series albums titled: Electronic Ambient Remixes. The first of these, EAR ONE, consisted of remixes of his 1980 'The Space Between' album. In 2002 he released EAR THREE a further solo ambient CD, which consists of remixes of his original Throbbing Gristle industrial rhythm tracks. In 2003 Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti stopped releasing material and performing as Chris & Cosey and now produce all their work under the title of CARTER TUTTI. Their most recent performance was in February 2005 at the LA MOCA 'See Hear Now' festival, in Los Angeles.
Chris Carter and the other original members of Throbbing Gristle regrouped in 2002 for a series of TG related releases and events. These include the TG24 CD boxed set and accompanying art exhibition in London and performances in 2004 at the Astoria, London, Camber Sands, Sussex and Turin, Italy in 2005.
Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti again worked on numerous Throbbing Gristle projects, recordings, installations, exhibitions and performances. Their more recent activities included their groundbreaking audio/visual performance at Tate Modern turbine hall with a full choir, their 3-day 'public recording session' at the I.C.A London and their 2009 sell-out USA tour.
In recent years Carter Tutti performed in Pisa, Venice, Madrid, Barcelona, Athens Wroclaw, Berlin, London and the USA. They also appeared on the recent Current 93 album 'Black Ships Ate The Sky' and are currently working with a number of other musicians on collaborations, projects and remixes. The most recent Carter Tutti album 'Feral Vapours of the Silver Ether' was released in 2007 and heaped with praise, acclaim and rave reviews.
During the latter part of 2009 Chris has been extensively involved in the realisation and production of the TG loop playback machine 'Gristleism'. He is also currently working on a new solo experimental audio project titled CCCL (Chris Carter's Chemistry Lessons). During 2010 his acclaimed solo album 'The Space Between' is being re-released as a limited-edition remastered vinyl album. He has also been commissioned by The Technology & Innovation Research Centre to write an experimental piece of music in 2010 for the Dirty Electronics Ensemble.
Chris continues to work solo and on various projects with, Cosey Fanni Tutti, Throbbing Gristle and more recently Carter Tutti Void.
Last update: Jan 2011