Most Valuable Play: Xander Harris

Austin producer Xander Harris shares his favorite record.

Most Valuable Play Xander HArris

MVP features artists and their favorite albums.

This week, Austin’s Xander Harriswho recently released a Snow Crash-inspired album—details his adoration for Chris Carter’s The Space Between, one of his go-to aural pleasures.

chris carter the space between

Throbbing Gristle is the discovery of my youth that permanently changed the way I look at music and art. I was working in a record store during my late teens and my boss, George Reed, always preferred to recommend more “extreme” music that he thought I should be listening to. A chain smoking, cackling man who would weave around the store pulling out titles and setting them next to the store record player shouting “you fucking kids don’t have any idea what underground is” while ashes spewed like a mini volcano. George always recommended music to me that quickly would turn into an obsession. He was aware that I was experimenting with noise music but I was only familiar with second generation acts of the genre, like Skinny Puppy, that he was generally critical of. George lent me a copy of Throbbing Gristle’s D.o.A: The Third and Final Report of Throbbing Gristle and I thoroughly enjoyed every second of that record. There was one swirling dervish of a track on that album that I kept listening to over and over in the store, the track “AB/7A”. “That track’s a Chris Carter solo composition” I heard George mumble over the crest of the volcanic Marlboro smoke. Slyly, he pulled out a zip up case filled with all of the original Industrial Records cassettes that he had purchased through the mail upon first release. This was gazing into the rumored “private stash” and I hardly ever witnessed George bring in rare personal items to the store. A small slate gray square with a weird cover photo of a young child landed in my hand.

“Here, your homework for tonight is to listen to Chris Carter’s The Space Between.”

I went home, popped the cassette into the cassette deck, threw on some headphones, and turned out all of the lights. There was a bit of a 30 second synth intro and then the first track “Beat” started. I was familiar with a few synth artists of the late 70′s and early 80′s but I was very limited in my point of reference. I was not prepared for the weird intro of the mutant squall of “Beat” with driving, fuzzy drum work that pushed the song into compelled head bobbing. Transformed into a weird dystopian landscape, I listened to the hiss to slowly fade in the next track, “Outreach.” “Outreach” is one of those tracks that I instantly fell in love with. It sounded like the car radios playing in the Cloud Cities of my dreams; Vangelis style washed out melodies fighting with the slow motion ballet of the sequencers. The tracks built on each other for what seemed to be as far as the mind could see. I found out later that most of the tracks on the album were improvised jams that Chris Carter wrote while trying to come up with backing material for Throbbing Gristle to build off of. Learning that completely blew my mind and added to the mystery of the release.

The original cassette release was 90 minutes in length and has never been reissued with the full 90 minutes of content. The best reissued version of the album, in my opinion, is the CD reissue that Mute released in 1991. The other reason I prefer that version is because Chris Carter listed in the insert the gear used to make the record. Recently, a Chris Carter remastered version was released on vinyl by Optimo out of Scotland but it sadly only contains 40 minutes of the original work.

equipment list cover

I probably listen to The Space Between at least once a week, if not more. Its music that never leaves my head and takes me to that original place of wonderment I had regarding the possibilities of synthesized music. This release is the reason why I started making synthesizer music. The music of Chris Carter, and Throbbing Gristle, was also my introduction to the early days of tape trading culture, a phenomenon that I have been happy to see return with more artists across the world.

  • Scott Baldwin

    Excellent post. The description of the old dude disparaging Skinny Puppy saying ‘you kids have no idea what underground is…” could well be me. AB/7A changed my life too. I bought DOA in 1980, and it’s difficult now to imagine how fucking far-out this stuff was at that time. Chris Carter was and is THE MAN.