album reviews

7", 10", 12" reviews

compilation reviews

remix reviews


Love For Sale - Taking Stock In Our Pride
Terre Thaemlitz
Institutional Collaborative
Jane Dowe & Terre Thaemlitz
- Rob Young

In Wire, December 1998, Issue 178.


Terre Thaemlitz is playing a dangerous game. He's crossing the previously charmed pentagram that's traditionally thrown to protect music and cultural productions - with all art's usual associations with humanism, personality, individualism, warmth, free expression, etc. - from the 'deadening' forces of the intellect, and all thought's usual associations with coldness, lack of passion, immobility and ugliness. His CD's strain at the seams with text, in the abstract and obtuse language of university theses, Semiotext(e) wannabe pamphleteer, and the postmodern 'paper': so much text that the font, of force, gets reduced to a point size usually reserved for footnotes, and threatens to run off the edges of the page.

You can take the notes or leave them, of course, but for Thaemlitz, who has analysed deeply his own status as a musician - make that 'content provider' - the production of music in the age of CD-ears cannot take place in a vacuum of transcendence. Clearly embarrassed by his early 90s releases in a more conventional American 'Ambient' mould, were the music is sold with all manner of New Age hokum tacked on, he is locking hornes with each tiny nuance of the music as a material trace of his unconscious. In other words, when ther's a cultural tug of ware going on - and you are the rope - between the 'doing it', the originality-seeking bit, of music's production on the one hand, and the demands for music to be assimilated into marketing structures on the other, then the music itself starts to shred, totretch and tear like gum held between the teeth and pulled.

Love For Sale is a response to the way gay and lesbian lifestyles have only been made acceptable in America by transforming them into profit oriented economies. The subject is close to Thaemlitz's heart: in the New York of the early 90s, he would spin records in Times Square's transsexual clubs as DJ Sprinkles, but was lately forced out to Oakland, California when Disney Corp bought the properties, zoning out the frolics. What the consumer wants to know, of course, is does it sound any good? The answer, for this cultural gatekeeper at least, is a firm yes. Leading off with a crafty collage of TV commentators at a Pride march that homes in on subliminal product placements, he subjects sampled sources to dislocating process after dislocating process, spurting digital interruption patte4rns over slow-dance pop songs, or mottling his twisting electronic tones with vanishing cream. "Handsome - Ballad for George Michael" and &One - Strength In Numbers" couldn't be more different, the former's gay porn samples contrasting with the latter's gorgeously phasing piano Minimalism.

With Jane Dowe, the alias for an unrevealed femal (?) journalist and a major in computer music, Thaemlitz has been playing a table-tennis mixing game with 'lounge' and Ambient soundclips, the results collated on Institutional Collaborative. As with his previous, astonishing Means From An End CD, high frequencies swoop to decoy the ears from the sonic nuggets at the centre, which here appear to be schlocky symphonic soul/disco melodies rubbed against a philosopher's stone to fuel a genuinely affecting emotional motor. Int he process of eradicating his artistic 'voice', Thaemlitz is becoming harder to ignore. Self-reflexive music that'll leave your ears ravished and psyche ruptured.