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Psychic TV - Those Who Do Not

Psychic TV Those Who Do Not coverThose Who Do Not documents a live show performed by Psychic TV on 23 November 1983 in Reykjavik, Iceland organised by Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson and GRAMM Records, the label co-run by Einar Örn, who originally released this as a double album in 1984.

During the visit of Psychic TV and Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth to Iceland a pagan marriage between Genesis and Paula P-Orridge was arranged. The ritual blessing was conducted by Sveinbjörn Beinteinsson Allsherjargodi, high priest and founder of the Norse pagan religion of Ásatrú, in sub zero temperatures in the wilderness beneath a statue of Thor. Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson (the current high priest) and members of the Iceland magical community accompanied the ceremony with pagan drums, Tibetan thigh-bone trumpets and singing bowls.

In October 1983 Psychic TV released their excellent eccentric and intriguing second album Dreams Less Sweet, which piqued the interest of the music press at the time, particularly due to its novel use of Zuccarelli's holophonic recording technique. The performance captured on Those Who Do Not was one of a series of well documented shows as part of a World Detour following in the months after the release of Dreams Less Sweet which took in Manchester (as captured on Live At Thee Ritz) hastily arranged following the cancellation of the scheduled show at Prestwich Mental Hospital, New York (N.Y. Scum and Vinyl On Demand boxset) and Berlin (Berlin Atonal Vol.1 & Vol. 2) all featuring the classic line-up and original incarnation of Genesis and Paula P-Orridge, Peter Christopherson, Alex Fergusson, John Gosling and Geff Rushton.

In the run-up to the release of Dreams Less Sweet Psychic TV were busy explaining and expounding on the sonic possibilities offered by Zuccarelli's recording system. These shows, however, were never as technically adept. Peter Christopherson may have been on electronics and tapes but it wasn't the entertainment through pain which Throbbing Gristle brought, either. Instead, the live Psychic TV sound was based around a more traditional set-up of voice, guitar and bass - there were a few of those - and violin, augmented by various percussive devices including crotales, cymbals, gongs and singing bowls to create ritual based improvisations. Initiation through improvisation, maybe.

It certainly was for Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, who helped co-organise the Reykjavik show with Einar Örn. Einar Örn together with Godkrist and Bjork were, at the time, members of the post-punk group KUKL, who would also forge an association with CRASS. HÖH who would perform with Psychic TV on these recordings recognised Psychic TV as kindred spirits and would soon after move to London to offically join the Psychic TV ranks. Godkrist also featured in the line-up utilising his invention the P-Meter, a sound device which would lock into a pulse or vibration triggering an identical structure and pattern for other sampled sound. That maybe accounts for the layers of noise and amount of bells that adorn the squall of electronics, abrasive guitar scrapes and distressing taped screams of a girl. The improvised nature of the opening title track almost seems to act as a bridge between the unsettling noise of Throbbing Gristle and the ritual element that characterised much of Psychic TV's early work. 'Attraction Romantique' continues with the chime of bells swelling into a sustained passage of guitar scraping and dissonance, underpinned by oscillating whir and electronic treatments and interrupted by a roar of "Roman P" from Gen as he launches into free form lyrics, all accusatory tones and haranguing directed at the fabled director who would would lose his wife and unborn child - "as the baby slides from the uterus, bloodied and dead, I see the Roman shaking his head, he's the one who makes the money". Long before Polanski went from celebrated director to notorious sex offender, it's clear Gen viewed Polanski not as a tragic figure but as someone tainted, disgusting, even.

"We bury ourselves in fear" utters Gen over windchimes and airy electronics scales shrouded in the looped monk chants of 'Eleusis'. Credited here as 'Fear', it is the first of several tracks from Dreams Less Sweet. Over the taped orchestral strings of 'Thee Full Pack' Alex Fergusson's guitar emits those eerie chiming notes, accompanied by Paula's bells and Balance's intermittent violin scrapes as Sleazy unleashes growling dogs and, those symbols of outcasts, wolves from his bank of tapes. Gen is remarkably restrained intoning abridged and off-the-cuff lyrics in spoken tones: "he is the father of fear". Where others saw darker aspects Psychic TV were more ambivalent insisting that they were revealing the true nature of reality to allow people to process them and deal with them in a more positive way.

The first part of 'What's A Place Like You...' appears to be an improvised collage of the 'Eden' tracks from Dreams Less Sweet, powered by the stroppy bass rhythm of 'Eden 1' fleshed out with twangy guitar notes, and augmented by the clatter of various percussive devices. Gen hollers and screams, his wails slipping into orchestral tapes. The second half is 'Predeliction' exploring familiar TOPY themes such as sexual transgressions ("this is the place where the skin meets the skin and the skin goes in"), guilt and confession ("he had a predilection for humiliation based on interrogation"). Over beaty bass throb and powerful rhythmic drumming, interspersed with tapes of orgasms, Gen tells a story referencing everything from the dogstar to Hitler Youth and Catholics. It's a good one and it's something of a pity Psychic TV never recorded this one in a studio.

Arguably, the same could have been said about 'Meanwhile' which "back in the land of rock'n'roll" highlighted a Velvet Underground influence, something which would become increasingly more prominent to the live sound of Psychic TV in the following years. TG were often considered as the VU of their generation. "Lou Reed was here today" sings Gen over Alex Fergusson's melodic improvisations on the Velvet's 'Sunday Morning' before launching into the lyrics "as you walk with fear, a star too far, almost lost in this world of ghosts, a tiny fear can become the host and you breakthrough to a room of dreams". Paula begins to lay down Mo Tucker beats and someone, probably Geff Rushton, adds violin shrieks as it opens up into an extended improvisation. Of course, it's actually an alternate take of 'Breakthrough', the first single to feature a Zuccarelli holophonic recording taken from the 'Just Drifting' single appended and amplifying a Velvet's influence.

A number of Psychic TV classics appear here, including 'Unclean' and 'In The Nursery'. The anti-Christian tirade 'Unclean' is rendered in a much more restrained and bass heavy rhythmic approach, steeped in a layer of noise furnished with chiming bells. It takes a few minutes of improvised vocals before those familiar words kick in: "you, you're unclean, you you're obscene, you may say that your holy..." amidst spiteful lines yet to be refined and even more cutting. There's something of a groove to 'In The Nursery' too but nothing that comes close to, say, the physical thrust of the studio version of 'Ov Power'. In a loose stop-start manner, amidst wails, Gen, amidst wails, describes that secret room where "dreams come true", a room where TOPY initiates performed sex magick ritual with the aim of realising their desires free from retribution and all aspects of control, riddled with squeaky horns and screeching violin. 'Oi Skinhead' which would become a recurring fixture in live shows appears twice. The first, 'Skinhead²', is frantic and energised, powered by oscillating wails, wah guitar and industrial thuds, accompanying the backing rhythms. Gen wails the title repeatedly, with others chiming in at points. The closing version is more spacious and funky. Yeah, that's right, funky. There's some downright funky chords going on amidst the loping beaty bass tones and Gen's chants of "Oi you skinhead, kick it in...", with other kicking it in with backing vocals. 'Oi Skinhead' (playfully titled as 'HÖH Skinhead' on Live In Reykjavik) never carried a message. I was, and still am, not sure whether it referred to the ska classic 'Skinhead Moonstomp' or a playful acknowledgement of the regulation TOPY hairstyle.

If there's a criticism, and knowing this edition mirrors the original recording, it is the segments of the ritual blessing - which on later editions even though it is the same recording is listed as a Pagan naming ceremony for Caresse - interspersed throughout which breaks the flow of the live show. This, like N.Y. Scum is, however, a great historical document of the original incarnation of Psychic TV. Those Who Do Not offers a fuller sound, largely due to the expanded line-up with HÖH and Godkrist and his P-meter. Intuition, random chance, ritual and spontaneity all figure here. This incarnation of Psychic TV didn't last too long before the group splintered and things got even more interesting. This is a beautiful edition from Cold Spring. Those Who Do Not is released on CD, double gatefold vinyl with a limited red edition from Cold Spring and digitally from Cold Spring bandcamp

For more about Psychic TV in Iceland:
Icelandic Music Museum blogsplot
The Genesis P-Orridge collection, Tate Archives

Psychic TV - The Ritz, Manchester, November 6 1983