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Terre Thaemlitz: Trans-Sister Radio
Grain of Sound/Base CD
- Rob Young

In The Wire, Issue 266, April 2006.


Life as a transgendered individual is a perpetual state of transit(ion), hovering on the limn of cultural, sexual and social borderlines. It is, you might say, a state of constant flight. Electronic composer Terre Thaemlitz' body of digital work over the past ten years or so as proved adept at exploring andmimicking conceptual border zones, at the instersections where social conditioning, sexuality and economics trade prisoners. Trans-Sister Radio is the first album under his own name since 2003's Lovebomb, on the now defunct Mille Plateaux, and the second since his relocation from Oakland to Japan.

Previous CDs have come slathered in illuminating/obscurantist notes. T-SR, originally a piece for German radio, comments on itself. It's a succession o digitally muddied plunderphonia, amateurish reportage, and, at one point, faux stand-up comedy. To a chorus of grim canned guffaws, Thaemlitz recounts a story of a violent assault by a group of Puerto Rican queens on the New York subway. It's the CD as audio blog.

As with much of Thaemlitz' work, a sense of melancholy, of existence on the peripheries of consensual 'normality', hovers over the endeavour. A trilogy titled "Trans-Portation" is the centerpiece, quoting liberally from Alphaville's "Jet Set" as Thaemlitz produces a 'report' on "transgendered mobility", informally following up a US government directive for airport staff to watch out for potential male terrorists dragging up in order to evade detection. His investigative skills fall flat in the face of airport staff intractability, but he gets his point across: the reality of transsexualism is, for Thaemlitz, not a proud statement of identity but more often necessitates concealment, submission and submersion in systems that reduce identity to narrow definitions of sexuality and gender.