The pandrogyne icon Genesis P-Orridge bridged gender, identity, and essence, and the score to Imagining October truly reflects this amorphous sense of identity. Temporal distortion and countercultural discomfort eke their way to the surface of the soundtrack in a tangible way. P-Orridge and Dave Ball’s joint accompaniment to the 1984 Derek Jarman short is difficult to experience in situ due to the impossible obscurity of the work, even in the age of gigabit internet, but this perhaps just precludes a purer appreciation of the sonic collaboration.
The score is melancholy and uneasy through and through, much like the Thatcherite Britain and Soviet Union backdrop to the short, and it channels in so many ways many of the best motifs of Bowie’s Berlin trilogy – no doubt the influence of Ball’s Soft Cell chic. Shades of “Warsazwa” echo in the opening minutes’ k-hole nothingness, succeeded by muted Muscovite choral vocals swelling and resounding with warmth. The latter movements become a DMT-infused moment akin to “Moss Garden” that’s totally tweaked and utterly divorced from spacetime, with torturously slow plucked strings warbling with Koto-like cadence, with wood blocks and squashed drum machines beating out retro Japanese rhythms. The coup de grace is a range of mournful Theremin melodies aping the best of Wendy Carlos with a dash of Robert Fripp-filled Scary Monsters with classic, temporal taste.
The album plays as a snapshot of Soviet invocations blossoming with European warmth and Siberian frigidity all at once. It’s always somewhat loathsome to invoke comparisons, especially in relation to such an esoteric offering, but P-Orridge and Ball create sufficient claustrophobic intent that any fan of quiet, waking terror will appreciate the arcane madness of Imagining October, even in its beautiful brevity.
Genesis Breyer P-Orridge
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Colin Andrew MacDougall (VexationsandtheVile)