FITTED – First Fits

FITTED is a spontaneously-established quartet of Graham Lewis and Matthew Simms from the current Wire line-up, Minutemen’s Mike Watt and Bob Lee from Fearless Leader. The group came together during the LA date at The Echo on Wire’s DRILL 2017 festival tour, rehearsed just once and then took to the stage for a blistering performance loosely based on Dome’s ‘Jasz’, which, after several iterations in the studio, emerges on the group’s debut album as the biographical ‘The Legend Of Lydmar Lucia’.

That track acts as a logical centrepoint to a collection of six tracks that operate on a unique pathway between spacey, acid-fried grooves, the upstart urgency of punk and art-rock. ‘The Legend Of Lydmar Lucia’ finds Lewis intoning a diaristic spoken-word recollection of a particularly vivid art happening at Santa Lucia’s Lydmar Gallery, his delivery carrying the kind of oblique, unfathomable wordplay that is highly familiar from his occasional lead vocals with Wire. The unfamiliar aspect of this track is the swirling, turgid, many-layered bed of sound upon which his vocal rests; murky, impenetrable, thrilling and restless, the sonic stew created by the four musician’s is a breathtakingly complex listen, and a perfect foil for Lewis’s intonation.

Something similar happens on the ultimately incendiary and boisterous opening track, ‘Plug In The Jug’, with lead vocals from Mike Watt. ‘Plug In The Jug’ starts out in tentative, atmospheric territory, sound washing in and out but building, building, building toward something initially unclear but finally coalescing into a groove somewhere between The Doors at their most focussed and Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley at his Krautrocking, cyclical drumming best.

Elsewhere, ‘The Chunk That Got Chewed’ is a sprawling, beautiful mess of a track with Watt sounding a lot like Pere Ubu’s David Thomas, while closing track ‘The First Fit’ is a mesmerisingly deep piece led by an especially emotional Lewis augmented by wandering, languid jazz rock fluidity buried under treacly reverb.

It’s not clear yet whether FITTED is a one-off project or the start of something that the group will return to whenever schedules allow. What’s immediately clear from the symbiosis of these four talented minds on the six tracks here is that their capacity to produce interesting, engaging, surprising music is probably limitless.

First Fits by FITTED is released November 8 2019 by ORG Music.

Catref: ORGM-2147
Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Documentary Evidence

Start To Move: A Short History Of 1970s Wire (Clash feature, 2018)

On the occasion of last week’s release of deluxe hardback reissues of Wire’s three 1970s albums, I was asked by Clash to contribute a short piece reflecting on the (perhaps overlooked) importance of those albums. Sections of the piece appeared originally on the first version of the Documentary Evidence website about ten years ago and haven’t ever gone back online; the original piece formed part of a longer bio covering the three chapters in the Wire story.

The Clash feature can be found here.

(c) 2018 Mat Smith for Clash

Wire – Nocturnal Koreans (Pink Flag album, 2016)

It’s hard to believe that it’s forty years since Wire began playing their highly individual approach to music. Nocturnal Koreans finds the band sounding as energised and vital as ever.

I reviewed the album for Clash. My review can be found here.

(c) 2016 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence for Clash

Various Artists – The Tyranny Of The Beat (The Grey Area Of Mute album, 1991)

Various Artists 'The Tyranny Of The Beat - Original Soundtracks From The Grey Area' CD artwork

the grey area of mute | cd agrey1 | 1991

The Tyranny Of The Beat – Original Soundtracks From The Grey Area was a 1991 compilation issued by Mute to showcase releases from its Grey Area sub-label. The Grey Area specialised in reissuing the back catalogues of Cabaret Voltaire (their Rough Trade releases), Can, Throbbing Gristle (plus various Industrial Records acolytes), Graeme Revell‘s SPK and many others. The label also became home to early albums by artists that had been signed to Mute, such as Nick Cave‘s pre-Birthday Party band The Boys Next Door, D.A.F., Wire and Einstürzende Neubauten.

The reissue programme conducted by Mute through The Grey Area inevitably produced a varied counterpoint to the releases issued through the main Mute imprint, through Paul Smith‘s hugely diverse Blast First (which itself, at times, also reissued plenty of older material) and NovaMute. Alongside The Fine Line, specialising predominantly in soundtracks for TV, film and theatre, The Grey Area represented a hugely interesting opportunity to hear some out-of-print releases on CD for the first time.

There days, at least nominally, The Grey Area no longer exists. Can reissues have never officially carried the logo, and whilst Mute remains the custodian of the seminal Cologne unit’s back catalogue, it is done in partnership with Can’s own Spoon imprint; Cabaret Voltaire’s latest reissue programme through Mute is done through the main label and consequently all releases now carry stumm catalogue codes, and Throbbing Gristle effectively bought back their work to reopen the doors of Industrial Records. The opportunity to reinvigorate The Grey Area upon securing the opportunity to reissue the Swans back catalogue in 2014, alongside the Cabs programme, feels like something of a missed opportunity.

The Tyranny Of The Beat then serves as a useful overview of what The Grey Area were up to at this point in the early Nineties. A small four-page flyer inside the sleeve highlighted just how comprehensive the reissue programme undertaken by Mute was through the sub-label – after all, they were effectively re-releasing whole or sizeable elements of back catalogues, not sporadic releases. The flyer also included some items that were planned for releases but which have never materialised – chief among these was the Robert Rental / The Normal live album recorded at West Runton, which Rough Trade had released in 1980 as a one-sided LP.

The sleeve also features liner notes from Biba Kopf, famed NME journalist and currently (under his real name Chris Bohn) the editor of The Wire. Kopf also wrote the copy for the Documentary Evidence brochure which inspired this site.

The breadth of music included in sampler form on The Tyranny Of The Beat is impressive, taking in the grubby pulse of TG’s live track ‘See You Are’, their Industrial signees Monte Cazazza with the truly horrible ‘Candyman’, a bit of early electro from the Cabs, the detached punk of Swell Maps‘ brilliant ‘Midget Submarines’, the similarly aquatic ‘Our Swimmer’ by Wire (still one of their best Seventies pieces), a truly ethereal piece by Wire’s Bruce Gilbert / Graham Lewis as Dome with A.C. Marias and the still-devastating Rowland S. Howard-penned ‘Shivers’ by The Boys Next Door. Can’s ‘Oh Yeah’ – one of Daniel Miller‘s personal favourite tracks – provides a rhythmic counterweight to the urgent mechanical production-line beats of Neubauten’s ‘Tanz Debil’ and Die Krupps‘s ‘Wahre Arbeit, Whare Lohn’. Dark relief comes in the form of SPK’s ‘In Flagrante Delicto’, a track which suggests Graeme Revell was always destined to compose the scores for spooky, suspense-filled films like The Craft.

Like a lot of sampler albums, The Tyranny Of The Beat can sound a little uneven, and whilst a lot of these bands were part of common scenes – industrial, punk, the terribly-named Krautrock – it would have been a pretty weird festival if this was the line-up.

Kopf’s liner notes deserve a mention, if only for the way that he positions the concept of a grey area as a place that people run to for escape or as a means of consciously assaulting musical norms, a place that both acted as a reaction against the regimentation of beats and simultaneously gave birth to the repetitive rhythms of techno. ‘In The Grey Area you get the sense of limits being pushed up against and breached,’ he says, and even now, listening to Genesis P. Orridge deliver a maniacal vocal over corruscating waves of sinister noise from a distance of thirty-five years, or Monte Cazazza’s detached multi-channel reportage of a serial killer’s victims and the nauseatingly vivid listing of the savagery he put those victims through, you can see exactly where Kopf was coming from.

Track listing:

cd:
1. SPK ‘In Flagrante Delicto’
2. Throbbing Gristle ‘See You Are (Live, The Factory July 1979)’
3. Cabaret Voltaire ‘Automotivation’
4. Chris Carter ‘Solidit (Edit)’
5. Die Krupps ‘Wahre Arbeit, Wahre Lohn’
6. D.A.F. ‘Co Co Pina’
7. Einstürzende Neubauten ‘Tanz Debil’
8. NON ‘Cruenta Voluptas’
9. Can ‘Oh Yeah’
10. Wire ‘Our Swimmer (Live, Notre Dame Hall July 1979)’
11. Swell Maps ‘Midget Submarines’
12. The Boys Next Door ‘Shivers’
13. Dome ‘Cruel When Complete’
14. Monte Cazazza ‘Candyman’
15. The Hafler Trio ‘A Thirsty Fish / The Dirty Fire’

(c) 2014 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

Wire – 1985-1990: The A List (Mute Records album, 1993)

Wire 'The A List' LP artwork

mute records | 2xlp/cd stumm116 | 05/1993

1985 – 1990: The A List was released in 1993, by which time Wire as a four-piece band were no more. Robert Gotobed had left the band by the time The First Letter was released in 1991, the band ditching the last letter of their name and becoming Wir for that album. Wir themselves then promptly called it quits, leaving behind two further tracks which were released on Touch as the Vien single in 1997.

This is a compilation album of tracks recorded by Wire between the Snakedrill EP and the Drill album that included new versions and live takes of the amorphous-lengthed track that proved to be Eighties Wire’s mainstay, its relentless dugga-dugga-dugga rhythm providing the foundation for their material for Mute. So, yes, a compilation, but one with a difference: according to the sleeve notes, ‘The A List was drawn up by asking various compilers to name their “top 21” Wire tracks in order of preference. They were then arranged on a “football league” basis. The final choice and running order are based on this chart and the maximum time of a CD. There have been no edits.’

Those contributing to the vote included the band’s Colin Newman and his wife and Githead accomplice Malka Spigel, Bruce Gilbert‘s chum Russell Haswell, Touch co-founder Jon Wozencroft (who also did the typography for the album), Wire biographer Kevin Eden, England’s Dreaming author and punk authority Jon Savage and Mute’s Roland Brown, and for completeness the entire distribution of votes is included within the sleeve notes. The A List was compiled and edited by Brown, Newman and Paul ‘PK’ Kendall.

The result is a showcase of just how strong Wire’s body of work was in the Eighties. While the purist post-punk fans would no doubt bitterly complain that Wire had more or less left their late Seventies intensity and creativity behind, the Wire that reformed and signed to Mute in the mid-Eighties delivered a high quality pop-inflected ethos mixed in with some of the strangest lyrics that have ever been committed to record. So what if the snarling guitars had been left behind – that was yesterday’s news. The new tracks (mostly) had a smart sound, infused with greater use of technology, while the wry artsiness that dominated Wire’s trio of albums for Harvest / EMI was never more than a sneer away.

The only criticism I have of The A List is that ‘The Boiling Boy’ didn’t make the grade. The version of the track that appeared on IBTABA is probably my favourite track from Eighties Wire, a slow-developing, graceful but strangely linear piece (it scraped into number #56 on the league table with just 29 votes). However, this album was the product of a resolute democracy – how typically Wire to create a compilation this way – and thus I shouldn’t question its exclusion too much. It’s certainly a more considered compilation than the equivalent sweep-up of Seventies Wire, On Returning, which Harvest put out in 1989.

For sharp-eyed completists, note that this was given a stumm catalogue number, rather than the mutel mark used by Mute for some artist compilations.

Track listing:

2xlp/cd:
A1. / 1. Ahead
A2. / 2. Kidney Bingos
A3. / 3. A Serious Of Snakes
A4. / 4. Eardrum Buzz
B1. / 5. Drill
B2. / 6. Ambitious
B3. / 7. In Vivo (Remix)
B4. / 8. The Finest Drops
C1. / 9. Madman’s Honey
C2. / 10. Over Theirs
C3. / 11. Silk Skin Paws
C4. / 12. The Queen Of Ur & The King Of Um
D1. / 13. Torch It!
D2. / 14. Advantage In Height
D3. / 15. Point Of Collapse
D4. / 16. Feed Me

First published 2012; edited 2014

(c) 2014 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence