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PTV FlyerPsychic TV
Factory Floor
Tom White
Bardens Boudoir, London
Sunday May 17 2009

Now here's a paradox. At a time when the reformed and revived Throbbing Gristle are touring their weird-art noisescapes around respectably-sized venues, successfully and to great acclaim, Genesis P-Orridge's post-Gristle project, Psychic TV, have pitched up in this Stoke Newington basement for what is the very opposite of an Enormodome show.

And yet Psychic TV are purveyors of headily accessible psychedelic rock - in short, the commercial stuff. You'd think they'd be the ones getting the bigTom White crowds, while Throbbing Gristle's excursions into difficult listening attracted only the hardy cognoscenti. Weird noise trumps rock 'n' roll. Who'd have guessed that?

Did I mention weird noise? Well, here comes a burst of it right now. Tom White sits at a table laden with electronic gubbins (I think that's the correct technical term) from which he generates sweeps and loops and knots and tangles of sound. He picks up a guitar, but doesn't quite play it. Musical instruments are mere signal-triggers in Tom White's world.

It's good stuff in that chin-stroking 'Hmmm, interesting...' kind of way, although it must be said that Tom White is slightly pointless as a live act. There's nothing to see - except for a bloke sitting at a table adjusting electronic gubbins, the novelty of which does tend to wear off fairly quickly. Cool sounds, but the act needs some exotic dancers, or something.

When I see Factory Floor's guitarist pick up a violin bow and apply it to her guitar, I know that we are once more in the realms of the art of noise. But Factory Floor aren't just noisemakers, or even simply artmakers. They have a secret weapon in their musical armoury, and it's called rhythm. Powered along by boldly-struck drums and (occasionally) bouts of bass guitar, their songs are collisions between the straight and the serpentine. Sheets of rackety turbulence billow and snap, but the rhythmic elements of the music steer everything along a sure path to The House Of The Groove. Factory FloorI'm reminded of the Sixteens' ability to nail down a beat, at the same time as they layer on the cacophonous art-scribble and the assertive, chanted vocals: Factory Floor have a firm grip on that same dichotomy. Now that I think of it, I'd rather like to see Factory Floor and the Sixteens play a gig together. That one might never quite make it out of the 'What if?' file, but I throw it out there, in case any promoters might care to indulge me. You'll have a moshpit of one, anyway. Yes, we like this stuff: from factory floor to dance floor isn't quite the distance you might imagine.

Attired in a bizarre hippy costume which makes it look like he's just stepped off the Merry Pranksters' magic bus instead of the sleek silver tour van parked outside, Genesis P-Orridge appears before us tonight as a disarmingly affable psychedelic host.

He also appears before a revised line-up of Psychic TV, which in itself is no great shock - the line-up of Psychic TV has been revised many times more or less from day one - but I'm secretly relieved to see that Morrison Edley is still on drums. Rock music is nothing if it doesn't have a sturdy stoker in the engine room, and I know from previous Psychic TV gigs that he knows how to keep the furnace roaring and the pressure up.

And yes, we are indeed in the realms of rock music. Psychic TV are, in fact, a throbbing, pounding, shuddering rock-monster of a band. The fact that the whole careering caboodle is fronted by the utter antidote to your usual Rock Frontman - Genesis P-Orridge looks like a cross between a benign Essex witch and that nice lady at the end of your street who has lots of cats - does not detract from the fact that the band are supremely capable at the gentle art of skewering bad old rock 'n' roll to the wall, giving it an acid bath, and making it spin like a catherine wheel. Why, Gen even sings in tune (sometimes).

Interludes of far-out ness, as the electronics wobble and waver, invariably give way to the 100mph storming tumult of the PTV behemoth in full, hallucenogen-fuelled effect. 'Hookah Chalice' is a thing of mighty madness, a rant, a rampage, a towering rodomontade that breaks down into a wobble and thrum in the middle, and then comes charging back in as if it's just remembered it's left its wallet on the counter. Nice excitable ape impersonations there from Gen, by the way. 'New York Story' as an affecting little thing, a back-street Beach Boys lament, while 'Papal Breakdance' - such a respectable assemblage of dance beats on record - here escalates into a veritable force of nature.

Genesis P-Orridge expresses himself extensively upon the electric sampler, hurls his iPhone around in a virtual theremin-frenzy, dodging the resulting whoops and whistles as if they're physical entities, (I'd like to see the staff at the Apple Store demonstrate that at the Genius Bar), applies himself tremendously to a white violin, and, throughout it all, somehow manages to be both the eye of the storm and the source of it. The faux-encore (because the band don't actually leave the sate) is the Velvet Underground's 'Foggy Notion', and all of a sudden Psychic TV are the best garage band ever. The effect is only heightened by the fact that tonight's venue is barely larger than a garage.

Genesis P-Orridge as an unlikely rock 'n' roll messiah? You'd better believe it.

  Psychic TV  

Essential links:

Psychic TV: Website | MySpace

Factory Floor: MySpace TTTom White: MySpace

For more photos from this gig, find Psychic TV by name here.

 

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  Page credits: Revierw, photos and construction by Michael Johnson.
Nemesis logo by Antony Johnston, Red N version by Mark Rimmell.