“Nettwerk Sound Sampler Volume Two: A Food For Thought” Compilation (1986)

I’m currently reading Cosey Fanni Tutti’s recently released autobiography Art Sex Music. Tutti is perhaps best known to music fans as one of the founding members of industrial pioneers Throbbing Gristle alongside her partner/lover/collaborator Genesis P-Orridge. She has also earned a well-deserved reputation as a artist, doing performance pieces with P-Orridge and others as part of their COUM project as well as being a very early participant in the mail art scene and doing some highly controversial solo work. While there was a certain amount of “openness” to Tutti and P-Orridge’s relationship, eventually the two parted ways as romantic partners as Tutti developed a deepening relationship with bandmate Chris Carter, one that eventually led to them starting a family and collaborating musically as a duo and allowing her even more freedom to explore other forms of art.

So what does all this have to do with the 1988 comp Nettwerk Sound Sampler Volume Two? Well, on Saturday I was doing some digging into the various Carter/Tutti projects, the most notable of which is Chris & Cosey. And that afternoon I stopped by Silver Platters to pick up the new Purple Rain re-release and while I was there I came across this comp… which features a song by Chris & Cosey. I pretty much had to buy it at that point. It was like it was meant to be.

Given that two of the artists on this comp are Chris & Cosey and Skinny Puppy, I expected the overall feel to be on the electro-industrial side. So imagine my surprise when it opened with a quiet acoustic singer-songwriter type song from a young Sarah McLachlan. Yes, that Sarah McLachlan. Huh. Didn’t see that coming. Fortunately things then take a weirder turn with the quasi-new-wav-ish “Greater Reward” by Severed Heads, which has a very Pet Shop Boys feel to it. But… then we get some folk rock by Lava Hay. WTF was Nettwerk’s strategy? These are definitely not the kinds of artists you’d expect to hear together on the same small indie label. The side closes out with Moev’s “Open Mind”, an industrial-lite kind of number that’s pretty decent.

The B side is more electronic, with all four artists contributing somewhat darker electro-pop tunes. Chris & Cosey’s “Trust” has a more early 1980s feel to it, along the lines of what was coming out of Germany at the time – cold synths, deep and almost mysterious sounding vocals, but delivered with a feeling of honesty that is actually a bit unsettling. Skinny Puppy close the comp out with “Addiction (Dog House Mix)”, unquestionably the most industrial thing here and arguably the best song of the bunch.

Skinny Puppy – “Mind: The Perpetual Intercourse” (1986)

During my high school years there were three albums that generated legitimate fear-inducing emotional responses. Albums that were so powerful and intense, so different that what I had come to expect from music, that not only was my mind blown, but I wasn’t even sure how to react. They were:

  • Metallica – Master of Puppets (1986)
  • Skinny Puppy – Mind: The Perpetual Intercourse (1986)
  • Butthole Surfers – Locust Abortion Technician (1987)

I first heard Metallica and Skinny Puppy at my friend Jason’s house during many a long night sitting in his room, listening to music, and waiting for his parents to go to sleep so we could sneak outside. I got over the initial shock of Master of Puppets by 1988 when I was blown away by their live set at the US Monsters of Rock tour (amazing to think that they came on second in the five-band line-up, playing before both Dokken and Scorpions), which hit Seattle about a month before …And Justice for All was released. Since then I’ve listened to Master of Puppets something like 10,000 times and I still think it’s awesome.

I’d never revisited Skinny Puppy, and despite their unexplainable appearance on Sub Pop 100 my best guess is I’ve never heard one of their songs anywhere other than in Jason’s room or his truck. Until now. I’ve kept my eyes open for a used copy of Mind: The Perpetual Intercourse, and I finally found a cheap one at a record show the other day. It was scuffed up, but for five bucks it seemed time to exorcise my musical demons and see if Skinny Puppy were as terrifying almost 30 years later.

The answer is of course they’re not. But c’mon, how much stuff that was cutting edge 30 years ago still sounds like that today? After all, industrial and electronic music have expanded like the big bang since then and even found mainstream success with the more approachable styles of bands like NIN and the theatrical approach of people like Marilyn Manson. And please don’t take that as a criticism of the modern day industrialists – I like a lot of what they’re doing. But given that I’ve had way more exposure to all kinds of music in the last few decades, including industrial, it stands to reason that Skinny Puppy will have lost its power to scare the hell out of me. Instead what I have is a more informed appreciation of just how good Mind: The Perpetual Intercourse is.

There’s a lot happening on Mind: The Perpetual Intercourse. Electronica, vocal samples, screaming, moaning… a musical disjointed nightmare of sorts, particularly on the more random sounding tracks like “Stairs and Flowers,” which really does seem like a bad dream with its disjointed structure that jumps from sound to sound. There was one surprise for me here, though, and that was the musical current on “One Time One Place” that sounds exactly like Pink Floyd’s “Empty Spaces” off of The Wall. And I mean exactly.

As is generally the case for me when it comes to industrial, I prefer the songs that rely more heavily on vocal samples than those with actual singing, like the previously mentioned “Stairs and Flowers” and “200 Years.” “Dig It” takes it a step further and incorporates Gregorian chanting along with vocals into the industrial musical framework in what might be the best song on the record.

Well, I’ve checked two of the three off my list. All that remains is Locust Abortion Technician and trying to listen to the song “Kuntz” without totally freaking out. Stay tuned…