Buzzhowl Records – 12th February 2021

It had to be a limited run of 23 vinyl copies, didn’t it? The latest outing for the ever-intertextual, eternally reference-making anything-and-everything-goes melting pot of a project, Territorial Gobbing, is the first vinyl release in a jaw-droppingly prolific career.

For anyone familiar with Territorial Gobbing, Automatic For Nobody sounds exactly like Territorial Gobbing, only with a greater leaning toward some softer, more contemplative moments. Meanwhile, for anyone not familiar with Territorial Gobbing, it’s a good place to start, because it is wholly representative, but also – arguably – a shade more accessible. That is to say, it sounds exactly like the three different covers. Because yes, sometimes, you can judge an album by its cover.

And because T’Gobbing is a musical magpie of a thing, because Terry T Gerbs is the ultimate in postmodernism, indiscriminately drawing on everything and everything more or less at random, we arrive at REM brought to you by the power of 23, that mystical, magical number oft-referenced by fans and students of William S. Burroughs – myself included. The fascinating thing about the so-called ‘23 Enigma’ is that once you become aware of it, it becomes wholly inescapable. So it its ubiquity real, or a case of positive determinism? It’s hard to say, of course, but probability versus frequency makes it a fascinating thing to observe.

And, whether or not it’s knowing or intentional, the Burroughs connection is strong with Territorial Gobbing: the collaging / splicing / tape fuckery approach to audio which defines the entire catalogue can be traced to the cut-up technique devised by Burroughs and Brion Gysin in the late 1950s and extended to tape experiments in the 1960s, which in turn prefaced sampling and also begat the methods deployed by Throbbing Gristle and their peers in the late 70s and early 80s. It doesn’t matter whether or not it’s knowing or intentional, either: the nature of influence is so often indirect – but like a virus, once a concept is out, it becomes airborne and has the capacity to spread invisible, subliminally.

And while Automatic For Nobody may not be quite the sonic riot of many previous Territorial Gobbing releases, it does nevertheless manifest as a massive sonic tapestry cut from infinite and divergent sources.

Sirens and birdsong and field sounds drone and fade by way of a backdrop to the spoken word opener, ‘Spontaneous Bin Lake’. It sounds like having muttered a few observations into his phone on a windy day, Theo stops for a bite to eat and a drink, and, leaving the phone recording in his pocket, manages to record about seven different sources n top of one another, and it bleeds into the scratchy, scrapy scribblings of ‘Oxfam Tulpa’.

‘Tack Says Ski Meme Free Peas Soot’ forges an unsettling atmosphere that’s eerie in the uncanny, strange sense rather than being overtly creepy, sounding like something that was recorded under water, while the eleven-minute title track does go for the creepy vibe, coming on like the ‘original’ TG, Throbbing Gristle, at their most darkly experimental, as Gowans gasps and quivers just a handful of lines repetitively in a muttering, tremulous fashion that exudes a psychotic tension, the under-breath mutterings of someone in psychological distress. It’s dark and menacing, and utterly disturbed. The tape stutters and warps, and there are yells, yelps, and howls off in the background, with extraneous noises throughout, ranging from lilting piano of children’s tune’s to fragments of music warped and deranged. The lightness of those piano pieces only accentuate the deranged horror of the demonic whispering – the words barely audible, but the menace and threat conveyed transcends linguistic articulation.

While there may not be the explosions of noise that assail the eardrums and blast off in your face, the same sonic abrasions are present – just backed off, and toned down – which renders the material here all the more menacing – and on ‘The Ocean of Black Hair is Not Your Friend’, gurgling electronics spark and fizz by ay of a backdrop to a distorted, pitch-shifted vocal, and it’s somewhere between a ransom call and Whitehouse circa Twice is Never Enough. It’s pretty dark, but only a shadow against what’s to com with the closer ‘He’s Absorbing’, which features guest vocals from YOL and Freddy Vinehill-Cliffe. This six-and-a-half-minute mess of noise ratchets the discomfort and the volume up several levels – screeding shards of noise that stop and start blast through babbling gloops and grinding earthworks, which are interspersed with inchoate shouts and yelps, and there is nothing comfortable or pleasant about this. And as everything twists, warps, crumbles and fades into a melting mess in the final couple of minutes, it feels like the very world is disintegrating. It probably is – and this, ladies and gentlemen, is the soundtrack.

AA

TG COVER FINAL

Comments
  1. […] off Territorial Gobbings’ recent Automatic for Nobody album release (which we covered and coveted here), where Theo Gowans hoarsely whispers corruptions of lines from REM, Rejections Ops kick things off […]

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