Three gigs in as many years is not exactly prolific. But when Carter Tutti Void do assemble and play the results have proved stunning. And after a two-night stand at Oslo in Hackney saw the trio of Chris Carter & Cosey Fanni Tutti (from Industrial music pioneers Throbbing Gristle and their own recordings as CarterTutti and Chris & Cosey) and young colleague Nik Void (from Factory Floor) reunite, it’s worth reflecting on just what has happened to the music since they first surfaced.
Their inaugural live show at Mute’s 2011 Short Circuit festival was in a tiny, and impressively rammed, studio space at the Roundhouse. Their otherworldly music was a splendid mix of the chaotic, the ear-piercing and the spinge-tingling, as Void’s angry guitar abuse completed Carter’s pummelling electronica and Tutti’s bowed string assault. The results became the four tracks released by Mute on album Transverse.
But lightning doesn’t strike twice for CTV. While the personnel are the same and the Oslo soundsystem is certainly an improvement over the Roundhouse’s makeshift unit, the clean and spacious sound pushes Carter to the fore with his exuberant, insistent and blissful array of 4/4 beats. Joey Beltram would have been proud. But while Carter controlled the proceedings from the centre of the stage, bathed in a checker-board projected graphic, it saw Tutti and Void relegated to the wings of the mix in a rather disappointing and limited role. And the two guitar mistreaters seemed much more subdued. With more than 20 feet separating them, they appeared indifferent to the concept of feeding off each other’s runs and instead meandered between Carter’s beats in isolation.
The hour-long set featured new material, as well as tracks from Transverse. Distinguishing them was more difficult, because the Transverse tracks certainly didn’t have the same raucous energy as the Short Circuit performance. So while points should be awarded for consistency, surely fans were looking for a new sonic trajectory? Or at least something that came close to recreating their fabled Roundhouse gig.
Listen to track V2 from Transverse and it has a gaggle of sonic interruptions from Carter and a deep, foreboding pulse of bass to propel the music along. At Oslo, stoking the engine was left mainly to Carter to provide the pounding beats while his guitar pals shredded around the edges in a controlled and clinical, if fairly creepy, way.
Both of the Oslo nights were recorded. And along with their performance at Incubate and Poland’s Unsound festival in October, the trio could use the material for a new release. Mute is staying tight-lipped about the plans, but given the response from the crowd over two sold-out nights, a new addition to the CTV canon would seem to be warmly appreciated. And perhaps with another listen, something more valuable may emerge not evident on the night.
Nevertheless, considering their mission statement of: “Carter Tutti Void are based on an improvisational ethos, with a focus on transformative interpretations rather than recreation,” it seems a rather large missed opportunity not to push their sonic hijinks along and forge a whole new level of transversal.