Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Psychic TV - Force the Hand of Chance

Psychic TV
Force the Hand of Chance


Released 1995 on Cleopatra
Reviewed by FNS, 17/05/2010ce


‘Force the Hand of Chance’ was originally released in 1982. The Cleopatra CD reissue from 1995 credits the work to ‘Genesis P-Orridge & Psychic TV’. This could be an example of P-Orridge’s tendency to claim ownership of work that was originally presented as the fruits of collective endeavour (as exemplified by his copyrighting of the Psychick Cross and issuing of dire warnings against its unauthorised use) or it could be something else altogether (see Jon Whitney's outline of the history of this recording’s forays into the market place on his highly informative Brainwashed website).

‘Just Drifting (for Caresse)’ was written for P-Orridge’s daughter when she was first born. It demonstrates the tender sincerity of Genesis, which is also plainly evident in his essay on Ian Curtis that goes by the name of the famous PTV song, ‘I.C. Water’, and in the lyrics of ‘I Don’t Think So’, from ‘Hell is Invisible… Heaven is Her/e’, which was released almost 25 years after ‘Force the Hand of Chance’. This strand of tender sincerity is often overlooked by commentators on G P-O but it’s certainly notable and long enduring.

‘Just Drifting’ consists of a locked pleasant melody and rhythm with a rich string overlay. It is something of an English pastoral idyll, a daydream, or the invocation of a longed for pleasant future. Genesis does his best to sing as well as he can. At times, he adopts a chanson style. He inserts a gentle spoken word interlude. ‘Just Drifting’ is a classically structured song, which departs from the pop/rock formats frequently engaged with in other work by PTV.

‘Terminus-xtul’ owes an obvious debt to William Burroughs. The faux Western style guitar and samples of echoing bullets combined with ritual kettle drum, freeform percussion and singing bells put us in mind of ‘The Western Lands’ but the hero of the story rather resembles one of the earlier Wild Boys of Burroughs’ invention. The narrative tells of a form of pilgrimage, with the pilgrim weary but determined, hyper aware of his surroundings, and acting without lust of result. He favours action over thought and his actions are marked by disdain for the world created by others. The song is suggestive of suicide by jumping from a railway bridge into a passing train. Maybe it’s a fantasy to pass the time on a journey that will end in initiation. The song is representative of a time of crisis, of mental turmoil, of intensifying agony and frustration. The suggestion of a demonic howl emerges from the maelstrom of chaos formed by heavily treated and distorted guitar (a familiar PTV device). The gentle coda consists of reflections on the great mystery arrived at, which is beyond time, beyond turmoil, in the most desirable location imaginable, being a place of fulfilment.

‘Stolen Kisses’, inspired by a postcard depicting Edwardian sweethearts, is an example of the strong tendency of PTV to subvert traditional pop forms. It combines cowbells, bubblegum guitar, a gently plodding bass and a Velvet Underground tambourine to arrive at a facsimile of a 1960s pop sound. It’s succeeded by a brief burst of electronic whistling and a distant guitar solo played on the high strings, an example of the familiar PTV strategy of combining a song complete in itself with a more or less unrelated coda, to form a contrast.

‘Caresse’ is an orchestral version of ‘Just Drifting’, initially stressing plucked violin and bowed low cello notes. A melancholy musical figure is repeated and sent echoing, remaining unresolved. Following a brief interlude of silence, we hear a recording of a crying baby, presumably Caresse herself.

The lyric of ‘Guiltless’ was co-written by G P-O and Marc Almond. A typically melodramatic Almond contrasts with a mask wearing, blank speaking P-Orridge, who recites his words as if he is unmoved. Somehow, the different approaches of the singers combined with ubiquitous bell and fretful violin serve to frame the slow creation of a stage upon which the rest of the work is depicted. The song consists of reportage, advice and instruction relating to the attainment of joy as eminently worthy enterprise. It goes beyond the renunciation of guilt to proclaim that guilt need not exist. Musically, the structure relates to elevation and plateau, pausing on the level to rise again. G P-O becomes more urgent as the song reaches its conclusion, so that we are put in mind of the theatre of ‘The End’ by The Doors (reminding us that Jim Morrison has certainly influenced one of Genesis’ many singing styles) but allowing for a period of relaxation after the climax. The coda to this piece consists of a burst of super fast acoustic guitar.

‘No Go Go’ depicts an invasion of insect like helicopters, or helicopter like insects, combined with a well executed if somewhat pedestrian rock guitar riff over a mildly dissonant drum track, with a steady electronic pulse beneath it all.

‘Ov Power (Radio Promo Mix)’, which was inspired by a reading of Jean Genet’s ‘Thief’s Journal’, starts as a light, brass led dance number with a shouted lyric, somewhat resembling a chant. At times, the music can be likened to Devo or New Order. The tune introduces another version of the many different onward marching rhythms deployed on this album, and it features the barking and more or less tuneful screaming that can be found on numerous PTV recordings. It’s a validation of the inherent qualities of the bestial common man. In TOPY parlance, ‘Ov’ is the name given to the sexual fluids produced by men and women. It’s interesting to note the idealism of ‘Force the Hand of Chance’, which can be viewed as a kind of position statement issued by Thee Temple near the beginning of its career.

P-Orridge’s assertion that ‘Message from Thee Temple’ (referred to as ‘Message from Thee Temple of Psychic Youth’ on the lyric sheet) was “Written after consideration of sexual magic and L-OV-E under Will” reveals his familiarity with the techniques of the OTO as regenerated by Crowley; indeed ‘Message from Thee Temple’ outlines a method of discovering one’s true Will along lines suggested by the famous magician. Written in 1980, the Message is the earliest of the lyrics featured on the record and it stands as a foundation text or mission statement, which was issued to the many thousands of people who contacted TOPY Information Points or Stations throughout the 1980s. The text is delivered in a friendly, trustworthy but authoritative voice, warm and rich, reasonable, seemingly not insistent. A strange doubling effect can be discerned by the close listening ear, which can result in a state of heightened awareness or unease. Basically, the Message stresses the virtues of personal experience as the basis for developing a generalised magickal system to bring greater depth to the Individual’s exploration of Present Time. Despite the avowed primacy of personal experience, TOPY and PTV sometimes flirt with the proclamation of dogma, both here and elsewhere. The Message closes with a mournful violin fade out.

‘Thee Full Pack (for Bachir Attar)’ was written following exposure to the rites of Pan at Jajouka, where Attar was one of the Master Magicians. Foreboding drums, wolf growl, a repeated guitar figure and a conjunction of bell and synthesiser lead us into a two part lyric, half spoken, half sung. This is just the beginning of the song, a quiet beginning that will become louder and more urgent. We are travelling, affecting resignation, but we are fearful of what we will come to. We travel in procession. A sudden diversion leads to a distinct new part of the song. The division of songs into separate sections is another familiar PTV device. Here, it feels something like walking serenely down a street, inwardly focused, and being attacked, necessitating a sudden switch to a new way of being in response to the violence. We hear the sound of wolves harrying prey, and then feeding. We hear a near despairing cry of triumph, or sinking down, and then the cry of triumph or descent becomes a generalised ecstasy. We perceive a cosmic wolf and begin to take on the qualities of the leader of the pack. The song can be appreciated as an invocation of a great force, which is threatening, which surrounds us, and from which there is no escape.

On ‘Catalan’, an extended silence precedes the appearance of artlessly produced dissonant out of tune church organ chords. We hear ringing bells, low note guitar, and drums reminiscent of handclaps. We travel on woozy electronic outflow and return. The track features another sampled recording; it’s hard to determine if it speaks in a Southern or Eastern European language. Like many PTV works, ‘Catalan’ features a combination of the culturally familiar and the innovative. (Note the following from Jon Whitney, as cited above: “…"The Mad Organist" is coupled with "Catalan" on the same track and thus unlisted.”)

‘Just Drifting (Midnight)’ is another reprise of the song that introduces the album, featuring other elements of the string parts than those highlighted on ‘Caresse’. It feels like a time for rest and relaxation before preparing for sleep.

‘Bubbles’ consists of a distorted and distant version of the pop song ‘Simple Simon Says’, a ham-fisted rendition and development of the theme on a Casio keyboard filtered and diffused through a poor quality recording. It represents a form of skewed nostalgia, or a prompting of vague memory.

The final piece on the record is uncredited and consists of multilayered recordings extolling the virtues of The Process Church of Final Judgement. A multitude of North American accented acolytes identify The Process as the one and only real concern of enlightened mankind. One of the anonymous readers proclaims: “One day the truth will emerge to all those who seek to avoid it.” Following a somewhat sinister burst of laughter, the record concludes with the phrase “Welcome to The Process” before ending abruptly. (Again, note Jon Whitney, who identifies this uncredited track as: “…a completely random advertisement for Skinny Puppy's album ‘The Process’.”) It’s interesting to note this final uncredited track in the context of the sleeve notes, the end word of which is the old TOPY saying: “THEE PROCESS IS THEE PRODUCT”.

‘Force the Hand of Chance’ should hold considerable appeal for lovers of double meaning in general and students of the mysteries in particular. Despite the difficulties outlined by John Whitney with regard to obtaining the best possible version of the album, it remains one of the two or three crucial PTV recordings by virtue of its focus on the TOPY liberation quest.


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