Published on February 17th, 2019 | by Sean Kennedy0
Cosey Fanni Tutti – TUTTI
Cosey Fanni Tutti‘s latest LP, her first solo work since 1982’s Time to Tell, has been described as an expression of “the totality of [her] being”. In a way, this makes perfect sense; the autobiographical theme follows an acclaimed memoir, 2017’s ART SEX MUSIC, and a retrospective focused on the work of her 1970s performance art ensemble COUM Transmissions, as well as an autobiographical film and audio-visual installation entitled Harmonic Coumaction (scored by an embryonic version of the album). The music, she has explained, interprets “shifting perceptions of how [past and present] inform one another”.
The use of the word “totality” is unusual in this context, however, considering how fragmented the record sounds. The majority of Tutti’s musical work – either solo, with Throbbing Gristle, or in collaboration with husband Chris Carter – has been defined by fracture, its abstraction inspired by the dissociative effects of modern consumerism and popular culture – its sonic abrasion a visceral, cathartic response. These sounds are all over TUTTI: among the first noises on its opening track is a brass whine not unlike that which appears about thirty seconds into 20 Jazz Funk Greats, and its atonal curves pull listeners towards the impressionistic, and the damaged.
How does the record differ from her past work, then, in its effort to convey that aforementioned totality? There is a sense of narrative, for one thing. A taut, propulsive beat on early tracks ‘Tutti’ and ‘Drone’ gradually gives way, opening up space and drawing out expansive, often eliding notes in place of their hurried stabs and bursts of noise. Her voice, unheard for much of the album, eventually appears on sixth track ‘Heliy’; its spectral effect is strangely soothing, ushering us towards the ambience of final tracks ‘En’ and ‘Orenda’.
The progression could be read as a comment on her artistic evolution, from early shocks and thrills to the relative quiet of middle-aged reflection, and on personal changes, from the absurdity and cruelty of her long-term relationship with an allegedly abusive Genesis P-Orridge to later domesticity with Carter. It might be a weakness that the record takes all of the complication and instability of its author’s life and reduces it to a linear narrative. But then again, the imposition of a sense of order on these experiences is undercut somewhat by the record’s early discordance – even as it finishes in an ambient wash, unease quietly lingers.
The strongest tracks are those which contain elements from both ends of this narrative, working to represent the discomposure and fitfulness of an artist’s maturation. ‘Sophic Ripple’ and ‘Split’ are most convincing in this regard; both delicately balance beauty and dissonance, substituting the early tracks’ exacting percussive repetition for open-endedness, while losing little of their energy and developing further their exploratory nature.
Tutti emphasised the importance of a primal physicality to her work while speaking to Pitchfork in 2017: “…when you take away all the superficiality of the internet, consumerism, and everything else we’re given, we are just beings who need to interact with one another, to physically feel one another. That’s what I always tap into”. The desire to feel – or, indeed, to be felt – is evident throughout her oeuvre. Here, this sense of intrinsic, bodily yearning is as present as ever – mellowed, perhaps, but no less sublime. Seán Kennedy
Summary: Check out: 'Sophic Ripple', 'Split'