Last year saw the re-release of 1981's Mission of Dead Souls, a recording of what was at the time Throbbing Gristle's final performance. It's difficult to overstate Throbbing Gristle's level of influence and forward thinking. No words could convey this as well as Mission of Dead Souls itself — still sounding newer and more contemporary than most work released almost forty years later.
It's arguable that Cosey Fanni Tutti has become a victim of her own success. To casual listeners, Tutti sounds like more of the same; something which, in many artists, would indicate complacency. But it feels like Throbbing Gristle’s members left no stone unturned. It's miracle enough that their output doesn't sound worn away, haggard, derelict. 'More of the same', with these people, means more provocation; more progress.
And it's not identical. There is one obvious difference between Tutti and Cosey’s previous solo work. Time to Tell examined the psychological toll of femininity and the sex industry through spoken word. Its style has been aped many times and by many acolytes, including recently Jenny Hval on Blood Bitch. But on Tutti, this device is dropped, letting the music speak for itself.
The music speaks loudest when Cosey focuses least on rhythm. 'Sophic Ripple' is the standout on Tutti by virtue of its oddity; memorable as a mood or a soundscape. By contrast, the album's riff-driven title track is entertaining, but slightly disposable. Whatever feeling it tries to inspire barely makes it off the ground. So Tutti is a mixed bag — but that's to be expected when Cosey herself has described the album as 'not locked into any specific time or place'.
In recent years artist have been making comebacks, polishing past glories. Reminding everyone how they got so famous. But Cosey Fanni Tutti has neither the luxury or inclination to do so. She is, as ever, a titillator and a pusher of buttons. Like 2016's Blackstar, this is as much a reinvention as a retrospective. With any luck, Cosey will continue to wreck civilisation for some time to come.
Words by Andrew O’Keefe