Tone Generator (SPK) & The Body Without Organs - Normalisation Of Response - REVIEW
Updated: May 21
Tone Generator has managed to evade the public eye (or underground equivalent) for years. His all-important work with SPK and their first two and most important albums a distant, but not forgotten memory. In the years and decades since, we have only seen occasional musical offerings from TG.
However, the 2010s saw some steps in the other direction. His re-joining of Last Dominion Lost, handful of performances, and 2019 interview with Noise Receptor being indicative of this. In continuing this trajectory comes the most recent project, Tone Generator and The Body Without Organs. TG completing his anatomy with fellow “organ”, Scott Barnes.
BWO’s first album, Normalisation Of Response, finding a home for its release on Sydney’s Inner City Uprising, a busy label who specialise in DiY noise and punk releases.
The BWO name is deserving of much inquiry. Derived from a document named Capitalism and Schizophrenia by French philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, they claim:
“This body without organs is permeated by unformed, unstable matters, by flows in all directions, by free intensities or nomadic singularities, by mad or transitory particles.” (1)
BWO’s resemblance to SPK is unmistakeable for a few reasons. This stems from the SPK name also being taken from a fringe political collective (Sozialistisches Patientenkollektiv (2), their similar ideologies that associate capitalism with mental illness, and the heralded “sacred document” at the centre of both movements. Evidently, the impact of Western political and financial systems on human psychology is a topic TG has unfinished business with.
On Normalisation Of Response, the release fosters an exploratory descent into synthesized atmospheres. Many tracks seem to gesture toward symbolism and narrative, hinted at through their titles and investigated further by patchy samples. These qualities are all carried by foundations of synthesizers and manipulations.
Tracks one, two, and three (Lost In Space, Ballad Of BWO, and NE-H-IL’S BACKROOM, respectively) all feel especially loaded. The alien green laser on the album cover provoking an extra-terrestrial theme in tandem with the opening track’s nod to the cult TV show of the same name, and/or the Lost Cosmonauts of Soviet era Russia.
Lost In Space opens the album with high-pitched and slow-moving synths that take the track through a floating-like motion. Fading in and out repeatedly, the track bears an uneasiness as it replicates the kind of intergalactic tones one would expect within an atmosphere where screams cannot be heard.
Track two, Ballad Of BWO, possibly functions as a sonic manifesto of sorts. Full of the laser-like synths that cover much of the album, it also includes looped passages of gibberish where careful listens might catch what sounds like the word “organ” being scattered about. The opaque communications being a message unto themselves that BWO is not intended to be fully understood.
NE-H-IL’S BACKROOM, makes overt reference to original SPK member, Neil Hill, who committed suicide in 1984 (only days before his partner died of anorexia). The track takes on a noisier industrial sound with a spoken word passage that details a house in Sydney’s Surry Hills (presumably Ne-h-il’s) where mental instability, voyeuristic experiments with the local classifieds, and bizarre behaviour by Graeme Revell were all in vogue. Additionally, included is a lifted piece of synthetic percussion from classic SPK track, Day Of Pigs. An album highlight.
The enduring emphasis on synthesized and manipulated sounds is a key sonic trope that leaves no segments of the album unscathed. Track 4, Drowning, has a violent subtlety to its sound, reiterated by screaming children at the beach. While the static radio frequencies of Lost Relics appear to hint at the impossibility of digging up the past.
Beyond the throbbing synth waves of The Wasteland, the penultimate track, Public Order, conveys an Orwellian narrative to the effect of “we control you for your own good”. Its mix of synth tones and drones accompanying Sydney’s voice of public transport announcements, a fitting conduit to carry this message and odour of state oppression.
Concluding with Flight Of Ideas, Normalisation Of Response ends on a schizophrenic note of incomplete thoughts, paranoid whispers, maniacal laughter, and some of the stranger musical elements across the album.
Sitting alongside the likes of Tom Ellard and Douglas Pearce as one of the most important figures of industrial music residing in Australia, it’s a privilege to once again hear new music from Tone Generator. While the sound of the album is characterised by a commitment to synthesis and experimentation, it’s the thematic richness of the work which is the prevailing afterthought. Although the album is sonically removed from previous work across monikers, the ideas and commitment to mental illness feel like the natural next step that SPK never took after the release of Leichenschrei.
1.“Capitalism And Schizophrenia”, Source: https://culturetechnologypolitics.files.wordpress.com/2015/11/deleuze_guattari_a-thousand-plateaus-geologyofmorals.pdf
2.“Turn Illness Into A Weapon”, Source: https://www.indybay.org/uploads/2013/11/14/turn_illness_into_a_weapon.pdf