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Psychic TV/PTV3 Hell is Invisible…Heaven is Here [Sweet Nothing/Cargo Records]

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Rating: 7.5

For those uninitiated to the upside down world of Genesis P. Orridge and his truly bizarre existence, he has been an instrumental influence on experimental groups ever since he started the highly controversial Throbbing Gristle in England in the late 1970s. Just when that seminal group imploded in 1980, Genesis went on to begin another seminal act called Psychic TV. In their original form, they released two proper albums, the strange, creepy and excellent Force the Hand of Chance (1982) and Dreams Less Sweet (1983), before two of it’s members moved on to form yet another influential experimental band, Coil. Orridge has spent the remainder of his career assembling other versions of Psychic TV in addition to multiple other projects. Hell is Invisible… is the first studio album, however, that Psychic TV has recorded in over ten years, and the most recent version of the group is being dubbed Psychic TV/PTV3.

So where do Psychic TV, who are legendary in their otherworldly strangeness, stand in 2007? Hell is Invisible… is a more conventional sounding record than what were used to with Orridge’s various projects. Lyrically, the themes range from politics, to sexuality. The beginning of the song, “In thee body” sounds like familiar territory, or what you would historically expect from Psychic TV. The whole song is actually characteristic of the group’s sound and it features sharp drumming and a bulky bass line for the rhythm section. It is a bit creepy, the first part sounding like a recitation from a seance. Lines from the song include, “Could this be my mind?/Is this really my flesh?/In thee body?” “New York Story” sounds like an old Suicide track. The analog wheeze of the keyboard leads the song, but instead of coming across like the petrified sounding Alan Vega, Orridge gently sings the lines and sounds startlingly sober.

The rock songs aren’t bad either. “Lies, And Then” is a poppier track that sounds like it could even turn up on an independent radio station or two. It sounds a bit like Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd as it features organ, phased guitar and electronic waves trembling throughout. “Maximum Swing” is great too. Orridge’s growled vocals are delivered demonically and are accompanied by slide guitar, which sounds like it is coming through the floorboards ever so psychedelically. The ten minute epic “Just Because” is a garage rock song with Bo Diddley style drumming and an almost Jesus and Mary Chain sounding fuzz guitar.

As time has passed and the urbane world has liberalized, Genesis P. Orridge and Psychic TV aren’t that shocking or capable of controversy anymore, even if he has had surgical operations to render himself semi-hermaphroditic in an attempt to unify both genders in one individual (refer to his philosophy: pandrogeny). The music itself isn’t particularly innovative anymore either. Where Throbbing Gristle and earlier versions of Psychic TV were based not on traditional rock music, but more on collections of sound and noise arrangement, PTV3 is pretty much a straightforward rock record. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing in itself, but this record is based more on guitars, bass and drums and lacks more of the spaces and voids that were filled with keyboards, unrecognizable sounds and samples before. However, fans of Genesis P. Orridge and his uncompromising vision will find Hell is Invisible… to be another satisfying work in his ever expanding cannon.

-Andrew Boe

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By Andrew Boe

I live and work in Seattle and have been here for ten years now. My addictions are records, coffee and red wine. Musically speaking, my tastes are grounded in a space where Leonard Cohen has dinner with the Reid brothers from the Jesus and Mary Chain.