Back in 2011, Chris and Cosey united with Factory Floor's Nik Void (né Nikki Colk) for an improvised set during London's Short Circuit Festival. Not very many people got to actually see it (it was a small room), but those lucky few who did were fairly unanimous in declaring it spectacular. Thankfully, someone competently recorded it and everyone involved agreed that it should be released once they heard it. I am sure that Transverse is not nearly as great as being there must have been, but it definitely makes for a very unexpected and satisfying consolation prize.
This album is an anomaly and an aberration in just about every possible way, as absolutely nothing about it is what I would have anticipated. The biggest surprise is probably that it sounds absolutely nothing like recent Carter Tutti. Instead, it resembles a bad-ass abstract hybrid between Throbbing Gristle and early '80s Chris & Cosey. Part of that makes sense, as the beats and grooves were all harvested from unused Gristle recordings that Chris Carter had lying around. The rest definitely does not though, as I do not understand why Chris & Cosey could not have made this album long ago or why they needed Ms. Void's involvement to make it happen. I am not saying that Nik's contributions are not great (because they are great), but it is certainly bizarre that the involvement of someone in a very dancefloor-oriented band was what it took to steer Carter and Tutti into such ugly and noisy territory. Transverse does not sound at all like the sum of its parts–it sounds like Chris & Cosey from 30 years ago in a particularly hostile mood.
Yet another twist is that the actual sounds themselves on Transverse are unexpected, as both Tutti and Void were wielding guitars for the performance. While I know Colk used a bow and Cosey used a slide, there is very little here that recognizably sounds like guitar at all. Instead, there is quite a lot of snarling, scraping, and shuddering and some sounds that seem like they could only emanate from a badly abused, detuned bass. For his part, Chris Carter characteristically spent the show hunched over a table full of electronics. It is nearly impossible to determine which sounds emanated from him and which came from the guitars for the most part, but the beats are definitely his and they are definitely great. There is not much variation between these five pieces, as they all basically cohere into an endlessly throbbing and hypnotic whole periodically interrupted by well-earned cheering and clapping, but Carter's visceral, mechanized thumps and groans are both unrelenting and darkly sensual.
The final twist is that the music is quite regressive, but better for it. None of these pieces approaches the complexity or craft of either Chris & Cosey's or Factory Floor's work, as the trio opt instead for simple rhythmic vamps with virtually no structural evolution or change. There is not anything approaching an actual song at all, just a handful of killer early beats strafed with inspired eruptions of noise and the occasional wordless, digitized moan. Normally, i would I expect such a one-dimensional attack to eventually get boring, but Transverse never does. Nor does it ever get too cluttered or over the top. In fact, it sounds like these three have been playing together forever, as everything unfolds organically and all of the spaces and flurries sounds like they are exactly where they need to be.
The only perfectly logical and predictable aspect of Transverse is that Void, Tutti, and Carter were able to work so well together, as Factory Floor occasionally shares a lot of common ground with Chris & Cosey's past work. There is not a lot of common ground with Gristle or with anything on this particular album, mind you, but it is evident that there is a lot of stylistic overlap and mutual admiration. Even with that factored in, however, there is no denying that the chemistry between these three was absolutely perfect that night and that something truly unique and wonderful occurred. That fact is highlighted by the final piece on the album, a studio version of "V4." In theory, that should be the best piece, as it was professionally recorded and the trio had time to edit and re-record, but it somehow lacks the magic and energy of the four live pieces that precede it. I have said many times that I do not understand the appeal of live albums at all, but Transverse is the exception to that rule: this album captures a performance that can probably never be replicated or topped.
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