Review : Foetus - Hide
PitchforkJim Thirlwell was always on the outside, even when he was briefly "in." A consummate refusenik, Thirlwell chafed against the one scene, industrial, that would have him as a member. Thirty years later, with Hide, Thirlwell's music is still impossible to place. Mixing astringent 21st-century composition with the nauseous beauty of psychedelia at its least smiley-faced, Hide's got no real kin in the current indie ferment of stripped-down 1990s revivalism and sunny indie pop. But though Hide is less hideous and more sumptuous than the records which made Foetus' reputation, it remains a unpredictable, horrific, and beautiful mix.
Early Foetus records, like 1984's blackly hilarious Hole, shared the industrial bands' love for queasy electronic textures and clattering metallic percussion. But while he was equal friends and fellow travellers Einsturzende Neubauten in intensity and harshness, the furor of punk meets the ugly whine and scrape of broken power tools, Thirlwell was also something of a one-man studio genius. His records were never crude assaults; they were masterfully multi-layered artifacts put together with a perverted pop instinct for actual hooks. Hide is proof that Thirlwell's never lost that skill, that if anything his abilities as an arranger and producer have grown even more assured, but sonically it goes to some very different places.
The sound of Hide is "classical music" broken and rearranged and then pounded or finessed into songs by a very odd man: The sturm-und-drang of the composers who slaved on high Hollywood melodramas, snippets of opera warped by technology, outright gorgeous writing for piano and Stravinsky-ish strings, austere choral arrangements, and hideous brass fanfares. Again and again, Thirlwell flits between the tender and the terrifying, never letting you enjoy his ravishments for more than one track a time. Fragile melodies from a music box give way to stark musique concrète misery that sounds like a duet between a struck oil drum and the squeaking of a birthday balloon. Like all the best psychedelic artists, Thirlwell wants to disorient you, just with twisted concert hall music instead of endless sloppy guitar fuzz freakouts....full text
SputnikmusicIt has been five long years since J.G. Thirlwell's last outing with his one man musical project Foetus, Love. It was an odd album that strayed far from the industrial roots of its creator, dabbling in chanson, modern classical and the abuse of harpsichord many to the distress of a Foetus fan, most of who seemed to later embrace it as an underrated classic. Where could Thirlwell go next, one might ask? If one thing is evident, it would seem he was getting better and better in many ways as he attempted to push the envelope with his songwriting abilities, at the same time revealing a number of uncomfortable flaws in his technical approach. J.G. has often claimed he isn't much of a musician and can't really play any instruments (or according to some of his critics, sing well), rather being someone who tries his best to use the production studio as his tool to get the sounds he requires which is an admirable effort considering how groundbreaking albums such as Hole, Nail and Thaw were in this regard back in the 80's. Still, attempts at incorporating further pop influences with the more melodic approaches on Love (and to an extent, earlier albums Flow and Gash) made for an incredibly acquired taste, primarily due to J.G's atonal approach to singing.
This brings us to his 10th full length LP as Foetus (if you count York), 2010's Hide. Thirlwell seems to have upped the ante here, describing it as a “neo-symphonic avant-psychedelic concept album informed by the culture of fear" opening the album with 9 minute long bastardised opera piece Cosmetics featuring trained in the field singer Abby Fischer. This isn't quite industrial anymore, folks (although J.G. was always difficult to pin in such a simplistic manner). Hide owes more to psychedelic rock influences, cinematic film scores and classical music, sort of furthering the themes explored on Love, but.... more. Hide is an overwhelming, sweeping statement in comparison, but unfortunately as is the case with much of Thirlwell's work, a flawed one.
The aforementioned Cosmetics and Fortitudine Vincemus are the two songs which primarily feature Abby Fischer, and are the most operatic and epic Foetus has ever been. Taking a sort of avant-garde approach with what sounds like a full bodied orchestra burying electronic synths in the mix with odd time structures, these songs threaten to swallow the listener whole featuring some rather loopy twists and turns with a rather cinematic vibe to the whole ordeal. Here Comes The Rain and Oilfields are restrained in comparison, featuring soft, sinister piano based rhythms with a melodic vocal performance that brings to mind the song Don't Want Me Anymore off of Love. Stood Up is a highlight, and is the closest the album gets to a song with a rock stucture (apart from perhaps You're Trying To Break Me) which is bound to become a Foetus classic....full text
BlogcriticsJ.G. Thirlwell - aka Foetus, was a major player in the underground scene of the 1980s. In conjunction with others such as Lydia Lunch, Genesis P. Orridge, Coil, and The Hafler Trio, Foetus defined the bleeding edge of confrontational music during those “Family Values” days. While Robert Mapplethorpe and “Piss Christ” artist Andres Serrano had the Bush One-era NEA screaming for mercy, Foetus and his contemporaries seemed to provide the soundtrack.
Thirlwell’s use of samples, hand tools, traditional instruments, and the drum machine produced such classics as Ache, by You’ve Got Foetues On Your Breath (1982), and Nail from Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel (1985). By the mid-nineties the movement was largely played out. This may have been due to the less morally hysterical tone of the Clinton presidency, or to the fact that we were dealing with the far more dangerous Spice Girls. In any event, Thirlwell is probably best known today as the musical force behind the subversive Venture Bros. on Cartoon Network.
Hide is the first new Foetus album since Love (2005). Thirlwell describes it as a “Neo-symphonic avant-psychedelic concept album.” The term neo-symphonic certainly applies to the opening nine-minute opus “Cosmetics.” This is definitely music of grandeur, but with Thirlwell one can never be sure what his intentions are. It is a glorious way to open up an album, but the Wagnerian overtones are so strongly stated that one wonders if it is meant to be taken seriously or not.
In contrast, the psychedelic “Paper Slippers” is not at all ambiguous. The song itself is addressed to a person who is about to be committed. The music recalls that of the original Crazy Diamond, Syd Barrett. “You Stood Me Up” is Thirlwell working in full Venture Bros. mode. It is soundtrack music in the extreme, full of ridiculously overstated strings and bombast, underscoring the tragedy of being stood up for a date....full text
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