THRESHOLD HOUSEBOYS CHOIR (THE)
FORM GROWS RAMPANT
Original Issue: 2007 Threshold House (THBKK3)
Margot-meter: 5 moons / 5
Listen to the seductive sound of EVIL!!!
1 A Time Of Happening (7:02)
2 Intimations Of Spring (11:29)
3 So Young It Knows No Maturing (14:34)
4 So Free It Knows No End (8:25)
5 As Doors Open Into Space (7:04)
This CD/DVD is the first proper release by Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson's post-Coil audiovisual project. The music on Form Grows Rampant is a logical continuation of Sleazy's contributions to late-period Coil and the reformed Throbbing Gristle, a suite of dense digital environments that combine shuddering electronics with sampled vocals. In the process, The Threshold HouseBoys Choir create a brand new genre that might be described as Post-Industrial Exotica.
The DVD is the main attraction here, containing a slightly lengthier version of the program that premiered at last year's Brainwaves festival. The DVD contains five videos captured at the GinJae Vegetarian Festival held in Krabi Town in the south of Thailand. Because the recently expatriated Christopherson's has made Thailand his new home, and because of the prurience suggested by his longtime nickname "Sleazy," there is a distinctly perverse undercurrent to the name "HouseBoys" and to the five-part video program included on the DVD. Fear not: there is nothing here which could be construed as boy-porn by any but the most censorious fundamentalists. However, these videos do not shy away from depicting young, willowy Thai boys in the rapturous malaise of ritual religious ecstasy, and there is a distinctly erotic component to the proceedings that must be acknowledged.
The boys whip themselves into a furious trance, heads shaking back and forth, eyes rolling back into their heads. A crowd of people stare as they eagerly volunteer to have their eyebrows and cheeks and lips pierced with long skewers and giant sharpened metal poles. Christopherson slows down the video footage as a way of depicting the peculiar beauty and savagery of the GinJae Festival, adding subtle time-stretching effects so that it seems as if one can actually witness the moving of the spirit in these zealous young acolytes of the "Khatoey" Holy Men. As an ethnographic documentary, this doesn't work very well at all, as it is far from a complete picture of the cultural context which surrounds this important festival. However, as a highly aestheticized way of gazing upon these seductively erotic-religious rituals, the videos are a resounding success.
Contributing to this success is Sleazy's soundtrack, which represents his first major musical project since the death of John Balance and the subsequent demise of Coil. Many people, I assume, will be interested to know how this music compares to Coil. The answer to this question is complex. Certainly, there are many features of the music that will be very familiar to those who have followed the work of Coil, especially during their last decade of existence: shuddering electronics, dense atmospherics, eerie digitalia, twisted and mutated vocals and sinister undercurrents hinting at a gleaming heart of darkness. These features give the music of THBC a superficial veneer that is unmistakably Coil-esque, but on the whole it is a very different animal. Here, Sleazy leaves behind the elements of chance, chaos and asymmetry that characterized late-period Coil. Perhaps because he is working almost exclusively with computer software now, instead of the variety of analog synthesizers and organic elements favored by Coil, the music feels more hermetic and inorganic. Even though human voices and other elements are sampled, they are mutated to the point where they synthesize with the rest of the digital library of loops and effects. This is not necessarily a criticism of THBC, but rather a proviso to those who were expecting the second coming of Coil.
The tracks are lengthy and contain layers of digital ambience. Melodies are present, but are sometimes buried, or are so child-simple that they become almost subliminal. Some of these tracks have appeared before in compilations in a much more nascent form. "As Doors Open Into Space" was previously known as "Mahil Athal Nadrach" when it appeared on the It Just Is... compilation last year. Here, it is expanded and reworked, with new elements added, until it becomes a rich, post-ethnic piece of electronica with a joyful melodic progression that sounds positively triumphant coming at the end of the disc. Critics such as David Toop have criticized the Anglo-American-Continental tendency to co-opt the musical features of third world cultures as a texture for their music, and certainly THBC could be accused of this kind of ethnic colonization. However, Sleazy's pieces are so hypnotic and beautiful, and so vague as to be impossible to pinpoint which specific world musics are being invoked, that they come across as a sort of 21st-century exotica: space-age bachelor pad music for the sexual tourists of tomorrow. Lovely pieces such as "Intimations of Spring," alive with electrified spirit voices smearing out behind a resonant sequence of xylophone tones, quickly negate any inherent problematics. All that is left is a stunningly well-conceived collection of audiovisual art that, though it is quite different, is undoubtedly the worthy successor of the legendary group to which Sleazy once belonged.