In the mid-'70s—when he wasn't at band practice with Throbbing Gristle or toiling at his day job as a sound engineer for ABC News—you would most likely find Chris Carter at his flat in North London, recording tracks on his vast collection of analog gear in solitude. This scene became one meaning for "the space between"—an interstitial zone where Carter's musical creativity could be fostered without concern for making a living or enduring the vicissitudes of intra-band politics. The tracks that emerged from these sessions in 1980 on a 90 minute cassette from TG's own Industrial Records display a striking amount of forward-thinking creativity, with sonic conceits that still sound fresh today, as well as a broad emotional palette ranging from dystopian menace to spaced-out bliss.
As such, The Space Between easily holds its own when placed alongside any of Throbbing Gristle's influential output. But the album has more or less enjoyed the quiet life of a cult object, getting reissued on CD by Mute in 1991, never reaching its vinyl destiny until now, thanks to Optimo's JD Twitch. Now Optimo's reissue is a bit of an odd duck—not only has the album title become pluralized, but it actually bears fewer tracks than the original. This is due to the limitations of audio quality on vinyl—rather than cram all the tracks on one record, Twitch and Carter decided to pick the prime cuts and give them room to breathe. Wearing his enthusiasm on his sleeve, Twitch heralds these tunes as "some of the key recordings in the history of electronic music," and even a cursory listen would seem to support this.
Working solo, Carter had more room to develop his ideas, which often seem to build a bridge between Throbbing Gristle's avant-garde provocations and the onset of electronic club music, exploring the repetitive DNA of what would later become house and techno. Without a pre-established stylistic blueprint to work with, Carter presciently explored the new possibilities opened up by electronic music.
Right off the bat, the dryily-titled "Beat" will give fans of Black Meteoric Star much to revel in—it drops straight into a minor key riff and thuggish, lock-groove rhythm, rocking a neon and leather vibe that evokes a street gang from Tron. After two tracks of Tangerine Dream/Klaus Schulze-style ambient drift, Carter swerves back into Gristle territory on "Electrodub," conjuring the group's trademark airs of urban wastelands and sci-fi paranoia. The record's back half consists of three tracks that push sonic experimentation further: on "Interloop," Carter lays down a rich analog bassline and solos with a Terry-Riley-style seesaw that takes its rapid tonal clusters from Indian classical music. The trance-like quality of Indian music is continued on "Solidit," which marries a machine-gun snare beat to an open, major key-drone, where warm synths and treated vocals dart across one another like birds in flight.
At the end Twitch has tacked on a slightly later track called "Climbing," which he heralds as one of the first recordings to make use of an 808. With its skittery, unpredictable beats and sinister mood, the track seems to call ahead to any number of later subgenres including Warp-era IDM and today's dubstep. "Climbing" also epitomizes why The Spaces Between is profoundly difficult to classify: when you inspect the "proto" form of any genre, you find not only many of the genre's core elements in nascent form, you also get a sense for what got abandoned over time—those paths occasionally marked by the original innovators that no one ever followed. At its most inspired, The Spaces Between doesn't only show where techno came from, it also shows in a way where techno has still never gone.