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Caipirnha Productions/Daisyworld Discs
Comatonse Recordings
- Louise Gray

In Wire, November 1997, No. 165.


In all the talk (or should that be discourse?) generated over Techno and its relationship to the body in recent years, one topic has been conspicuous by its absence. To date we've had the perfect, utopian body suggested by Kraftwerk (a group who never publicly stepped outside their act), the technological bodies of Detroit Techno, the exuberant (black, gay) bodies of (disco and) Chicago House, and most recently, the play that Illbient makes on deconstructed bodies. The body politic, the body fantastic, but the gendered body? Is there room for it? The discourse surrounding Techno has, after all, focused on the collapse of any sense of real body. Surely there is no need for its logical (and contrary) argument on reconstruction? Well, actually there is. If digital technology can create the sonic re-orderings of which Techno speaks, then perhaps it might be time to consider how the music's creators align themselves.

Of course, it's tempting to speculate as to why discourses surrounding gender and music usually flounder. Considering that gender is so often thought of as 'given', many are deeply uncomfortable at questioning it, one reason among many why Terre Thaemlitz's (body of) music is interesting. The cover picture to GRRL details a bandwidth in which stand three figures, male at one end, female at the other, indeterminate in between. And as if to press a point home, the cover of Couture Cosmetique flips open to reveal a plain, beige coloured CD, the whole article seeming rather like a powder compact. A point, if not the point, to Thaemlitz's work is to reinstate music as a playful activity which does not shirk its political connotations. Self-conscious enough to be camp, it is also blatantly queer. And, lest anyone miss this, Thaemlitz's albums are supplied with ample essays secreted away in their sleeves. Reading them, it has to be said, takes rather more energy than listening. Whether rhythmically based (as on GRRL), Thaemlitz's music combines wit with passion. As Die Roboter Rubato, his previous album of readings through Kraftwerk, showed, Thaemlitz is at pains to provide his music with specific orientation points. On GRRL, those points are moments in club history, right down to some heavy duty Larry Heard homages. Cosmetique's are in a debate about power and technology - how could it not be with track titles such as "Trans Am (Transgendered American)"? The joke of GRRL is that the question contained in the anthems of so much post-Fingers Inc. club music, namely "Can You Feel It?", is never asked. It is a rhetorical absence. These are records where great theory matches their sound. And their advent is long overdue.