gullbuy music review

23 Skidoo


The Culling Is Coming


Boutique (LTM)


23 Skidoo CD cover"it was an exorcism,' asserts Johnny. "We wanted to banish a spirit and then redefine it. Aggressive on one side, structured on the other." – from David Stubbs' Interview with 23 Skidoo in the Wire Issue 197 July 2000

THE CULLING IS COMING, originally released in 1983, has been recently reissued on LTM's Boutique label. Critically reviled in its time, it was a departure in 23 SKIDOO's sound. The album is a document of two live performances by the band in 1982-- with this re-issue containing a further show as a bonus track (all roughly 23 minutes each). The disc is divided in to three parts, each containing a different concert.

The first part of this disc was recorded with the Gamelan orchestra at Dartington hall. It is considerably melodic and soothing. The second part is a departure from this sound and very confrontational. It concerns the band's performance at the WOMAD festival. Here metal percussion and primitive tape effects are used to create a noise performance. They come across as noisy, loud and irrational. It is hard for me to see the cuts on this album as individual songs rather, they are excerpts from the concert. The 'songs' seem to lose significance when stripped from their context.

To give you a better impression of the ideology behind 23 Skidoo’s music I will again quote from David Stubbs' Interview with them in the Wire to better contextualize this release, "23 Skidoo shared T[hrobbing] G[ristle]'s interest in Burroughs, in using tape loop mantras, metallic noise and electronics to depict and expose the hollow core of Western (post-) industrial society, Skidoo drew from all of these groups, even as they sprang from the same avant garde margin. They may have had cerebral appeal, but they never considered that their music making methods were intellectual...What Skidoo brought was a palpably physical edge to their music, as evinced in their furious use of percussion. Half-Chinese brothers Johnny and Alex Turnbull were and still are martial arts enthusiasts. Combined with their study of Burundi and Kodo drumming, they were aware of the spirit-enhancing qualities that could be achieved through such disciplined exertion."

Once again it should be understood that, "...physical effort was a key motif in those pre-sequencer days, in which the interface between work, rhythm, industry, sex, health and efficiency were much toyed with." Skidoo, however, were more subtle, using their knowledge of martial arts to increase the insidious efficiency of their modus operandi. When asked at the time if their music had a sexual dimension, Fritz Catlin demurred, "No. Our music makes me want to fight." 'Its a good way of venting anger, it has its similarities to the musical process,' says Alex. 'A different plane of being, moving at a different speed through the environment." 'Music is like a martial art in a way,' continues Johnny. 'It's a technique. You improve your knowledge, your technical proficiency." --the WIRE Issue 197 July 2000.

I hope this review, with the necessary supplementation of these quotes, enables the listener to fully appreciate the significance of this release and not relegate it to the ephemeralness of kitsch. THE CULLING IS COMING is an important document in the work of a constantly challenging and visionary group.

---George Kilgoar, December 9, 2003