Viva La Evolution: Genesis P-Orridge
Genesis P-Orridge hardly needs introducing by now, but if you’re unfamiliar, 2007 is as good a time as any to get acquainted. This year has seen the first new recording from the legendary Throbbing Gristle in 25 years, and June saw the release of the first album from the equally legendary Psychic TV in over 10 years. At 57, living in New York, devoted to h/er other half, Lady Jaye, for about 30-years, Genesis shows no signs of slowing down or drying up creatively. A bit more stable, more considered perhaps, but no less fruitful. Throbbing Gristle got back together by happenstance: they were in London promoting the release of the monumental live collection TG24 and were more or less coerced by Mute Records to go into a studio and record. Genesis was reluctant at first, “Every time I had an excuse (Mute) trumped me… we started to jam and lo and behold, despite all the different waters under the various bridges and personal grudges that may have happened between us… we discovered something magical happens whenever TG plays together.”The new album, Part Two: The Endless Not, while still retaining elements of the alien sonic maelstrom TG is known for, is a mellower, toned down affair when compared to the intensity of their early work. Genesis sees this as a natural progression; TG1’s approach was relevant in the context of the mid-70s, but for the early 21st century TG2 needed to update their approach. “The strategies change according to the society; we’re living in a much more immediate, sophisticated, much more global society, and inevitably that ought to require new ways of creating discussion and dialog through art.”The decision to resurrect Psychic TV (or PTV3) came from the realization that Genesis was, in fact, a songwriter, and a coming to terms with h/er preferred musical aesthetic: “[I realized that] the PTV songs that were the most traditionally psychedelic, were songs I could listen to over and over… so I rediscovered a profound respect for the format, the shape, the template for a psychedelic garage rock song.”
The recording process for the new PTV3 record, Hell is Invisible, Heaven is Her/E was a profoundly liberating experience for Genesis. Huge leaps in recording technology allowed Genesis to retain the insistence on spontaneity and improvisation while allowing for greater precision in the mixing and editing phase. “Honestly, I believe it’s the best, most complete, most truthful and perfect album I’ve ever done in any band.”
Themes of human improvement and evolution find prominent expression in the new album. The title encompasses “the idea that reality is created by perception, is fictional, and you are the only person that will witness every single second of your life and your experiences of your reality,” and the pun on her/e points to pandrogyny as an evolutionary strategy. Pandrogyny deals with pleasure, sexuality, gender identity and physical alteration and improvement, all of which Genesis is (in)famous for embodying. “Pleasure,” Genesis says, “is a weapon. The world we live in is so overtly polarized, so binary, so oppressive and totalitarian… that we face the potential of a new dark age as a natural result of this mentality… Where there is so much inhibition and so much intimidation in the culture at large that simply to smile, relax and have a really good time becomes a political act.” Genesis sees this as imperative for the survival of the species because, in spite of our monumental technological advances, “human behavior, for all intents and purposes is still stuck in the prehistoric era. Can you imagine why it’s dangerous to have prehistoric human behavior set loose in a futuristic technological environment? It’s terrifying… [and it’s] the basic underlying problem of our time.”
“We are proposing that the human species, for better or worse, has to evolve its behavior and its being, physically, mentally, consciousness-wise, all has to catch up to technology… so that we’re equal to our toys and our ability with tools.” Genesis proposes a blending of technology with the human body, which is “just raw material… simply a means of making the brain mobile.” Pandrogyny, in other words, is not just about breaking down gender binarism, though that’s a large part of it. “Some people feel they’re a man trapped in a woman’s body, some people feel they’re a woman trapped in a man’s body, the pandrogyne is just feeling trapped in a body.” Each person, Genesis, says, should take full control of their identity and take full responsibility for the decisions they make.
Hell is Invisible, Heaven is Her/E is not just a psychedelic garage rock record; it is a theoretical work, a political act, and a call for evolution, encompassing all of Genesis’ current philosophical preoccupations as well as h/er musical aesthetics. “If people only listen to this one record by Psychic TV and judge my entire musical career on this one CD then I’d be happy, because this is the only album I truly feel is 100 percent inseparable from the visions I had at the beginning.” Coming from a person whose work has had as incalculable an influence on modern music as Genesis, this is not a statement to be taken lightly.
Psychic TV’s new album is out on Sweet Nothing, and Throbbing Gristle’s Part Two: The Endless Not is available on Mute. Any self-respecting Genesis P-Orridge fan ought to pick these up immediately, and newcomers to Genesis’ legacy ought to take this opportunity to get better acquainted.