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Terre Thaemlitz: Lovebomb
Mille Plateaux MP117 CD
- Anne Hilde Neset

In The Wire, Issue 232, June 2003.


Transgendered electroacoustic composer Terre Thaemlitz's latest venture is an attack on that all-embracing human emotion called love. The record is a complex and beautiful composition collaging artist manifestos, dialogues descending into screams, political bombast, subtle electronic textures, melancholy whimpering piano, multilayered drones, sampled soul cries, true blue Country, benign brass bands, folky cuts, 80s disco samples, Morse code bleeps, snatches of conversation, squeaking toys andmachine gun rattles.

That's quite some sonic vocabulary Thaemlitz has put together for an album whose 14 tracks are essentially interrogating - albeit each in a different way - the slogan "all we need is love". Love, he says, has a dark and destructive side: love for the fatherland breeding facism, possesive love precipitating domestic violence, religious love cultivating factionalism and terrorism. In its ongoing role as uncritical cheerleader for love, meanwhile, music blindly pedals love platitudes. Thaemlitz's own artwork for Lovebomb sinks a line-drawing connecting the ruins of 9/11 and the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo underground beneath a pinky pastel colourwash that makes the CD look like it's targeted at Japan's teenage lovelorn girl market. Applying the sleeve's clour code, the artwork's equation of teen love and terrorism resolves as expressions of fanaticism. Thaemlitz piles on examples of love gone wrong even before you get to the music.

Delivered as a confessional whisper over murky orchestral sweeps, the title track reveals how Theamlitz spent his school days dodging spit from his classmates who nicknamed him 'AIDS Bucket'. The apartheid study, "Between Empathy and Sympathy is Time", opens with a machine gune rattle that dissolves into the calm, vocoded and resigned call to arms of an ANC spokesperson urging members to take revenge on white oppressors. "Sintesi Musicale Del Linciaggio Futurista" is an extraordinary multilayered composition linking Marinetti's Futurist manifesto, Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit" and an account of three black men being executed in Springfield, Missouri - Thaemlitz's hometown - in 1906.

Variously skewed, buckled and fucked, Thaemlitz's compositions embody the tensions cramping the love muscle. Yet pain, conflict, paradox and contradiction make up the muck and soil out of which rounded love in all its sick variety shoots forth. As Thaemlitz puts it in his extensive sleevenotes: "Rather than songs of love and unity, I long for audio of love's irreconcilable differences." The point is rammed home on the CD's six minute bonus track, where the mantra, "change it, change your love", is endlessly repeated over a slinky House rhythm paced by a thumping beat. Ending his complex investigations on such a camp note is entirely in keeping with Thaemlitz's enduring love of ambiguities.