Bruce Gilbert – Monad (Touch single, 2011)

brucegilbert_monad

I was really looking forward to this release, I have to say. There is something about deeply experimental music being released on a 7” single that for some reason really appeals. I think it’s because the 7″ is so ordinarily suited to the ‘pop’ track that to hear anything other than pop music on a 7″ is quite exciting. Touch‘s Sevens series has included short releases by the likes of ex-Cabaret Voltaire sound recordist Chris Watson and Pan Sonic‘s sorely missed Mika Vainio. Bruce Gilbert‘s association with the label goes back many years, with albums like The Haring getting released on Touch (it was subsequently re-released by WMO). More recently the ex-Wire guitarist – as part of the group Souls On Board – took the B-side of a live split album with Savage Pencil, released on Touch sub-label Ash International. Monad is housed in a sleeve designed by Jon Wozencroft (as are most Touch releases) and lists out the instruments and tools Gilbert used boldly on the front (Korg Monotron Analogue Ribbon synth, Zoom RFX-200, Korg Kaos Pad 2, Apple GarageBand); there’s also a diagram by Gilbert himself on the back.

I looked up the definition of the word ‘monad’ and its meanings vary from being a small, single-celled organism, to – according to Leibniz’s metaphysics no less – an indestructible entity that is the ultimate fabric of the universe. This confusing word has little bearing on the two tracks included on the single, unless they refer to the songs as being solid and reasonably impenetrable soundscapes or their short duration (at 45rpm both are around two-and-a-half minutes long apiece).

‘Ingress’ is a dense drone whose layers are not immediately obvious unless you really concentrate; if you listen deeply you will pick out the various shifts in sound across the piece’s length, the changes in tone and the rich tug of the bass drone. The best way to describe ‘Ingress’ would be as an approximation of what loading tapes into a ZX Spectrum used to sound like, only this is more measured, more deliberate and more ostensibly ‘composed’ than that noise.

Over on the B-side, ‘Re-Exit’ is less constant, consisting of a throbbing, echoing bass loop offset by buzzing noises and a phasing, quiet drone out in the background. The bass loop provides a rhythm of sorts, but in essence its more of a thick pulse. It’s a style that Gilbert has deployed a number of times, both in his solo work and also with Graham Lewis as Dome. In it’s own, pretty sinister way, it’s beautiful.

First posted 2011; edited 2018.

(c) 2018 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

Advertisements

Electronic Sound Issue 43

Issue 43 of Electronic Sound is now available, and this month’s magazine & 7″ bundle includes exclusive tracks from the Radiophonic Workshop, the beneficiaries of a major in-depth feature this month.

For this issue I wrote a short introduction to the music of Ratgrave, whose jazz / hip-hop / electro / funk debut I mentioned in The Electricity Club interview, and who I expect I’m going to be banging on about for several months to come. Their self-titled album is released at the end of this month and it is a wild, untameable beast of a fusion record. I also interviewed Norwich’s Let’s Eat Grandma for this issue about their second album, which sees childhood friends Jenny Hollingworth and Rosa Walton taking their curiously idiosyncratic music in a squarely electronic pop direction, complete with analogue synths and production nous from Faris Badwan and SOPHIE. We also had a god natter about the merits of rich tea biscuits.

In the review section I covered Yeah Yeah Yeahs drummer Brian Chase‘s mesmerising Drums & Drones collection, three discs of processed percussion inspired by time spent at La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela’s Dream House; a hard-hitting gem of an album by 1i2c which I described as ‘therapeutic music for anxious robots’; the new album from 4AD’s Gang Gang Dance; another brilliant collaboration tape on the Front & Follow label by Jodie Lowther and ARC Soundtracks; the brilliant second album by Geniuser, one half of which is Mick Allen from The Models, Rema-Rema, MASS and The Wolfgang Press.

Finally, I reviewed albums by two projects by current members of WireColin Newman and Malka Spigel‘s second Immersion album since they reactivated the band in the last couple of years, and the third album from Wire guitarist Matthew Simms as Slows. Simms is a highly inventive musical polymath, as comfortable with a guitar in his hand as he is using analogue synths, found sound or pretty much anything he can lay his hands on. A Great Big Smile From Venus consists of two long tracks covering an incredible breadth of ideas, continually moving out in directions that are both unexpected and yet entirely expected when you’re familiar with Simms’s vision.

The review section also features Ben Murphy’s fantastically detailed review of the new Reed & Caroline album, Hello Science, released earlier this month on Vince Clarke‘s VeryRecords.

The magazine and 7″ bundle is available exclusively from the Electronic Sound website here.

(c) 2018 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence for Electronic Sound

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

Immersion – Analogue Creatures (Swim~ single, 2016)

  
‘Analogue Creatures’ is the first material by ImmersionMalka Spigel from Minimal Compact and Colin Newman from Wire – since a fabled performance at London’s Royal Festival Hall in 2000 which marked the reformation of Newman’s group. The next decade and a half would see Swim~, the electronica label that Spigel and Newman had established, put on the backburner while the duo variously worked on the resurgence of Wire, live shows by Minimal Compact and the Githead group they formed with Robin ‘Scanner’ Rimbaud and Minimal Compact’s Max Franken.

Named for the organic quality of the synths deployed rather than suggesting that this new 10” EP is a product of the analogue renaissance that gets Big Bang Theory-esque synth nerds all hot under the collar, ‘Analogue Creatures’ is at once deeply ambient, while simultaneously Krautrock in its dimensions. ‘Always The Sea’ and ‘Shapeshifters’ blend together choppy guitar lines with slowly ebbing and flowing synth backdrops, it often being unclear when the synths stop and the guitars start. Despite the absence of any discernible rhythm, there is nevertheless a pulse – of sorts – running throughout the record, evoking the chugging motorik grove that characterised much of Krautrock; Newman sees ‘Analogue Creatures’ as being in the territory of a ‘beatless Neu!’ and it’s easy to see why he’d come to that conclusion.

The EP pivots on the track ‘Organic Cities’. That track saw the duo collaborating with local Brighton synth geek Guy Schneerson, and the track demonstrates a more harmonically full suite of arpeggios, plucked guitar lines and evocative texture. It sits somewhere between the churning linear lines of a Githead melody and a previously-unheard outtake from Vangelis’s Bladerunner soundtrack.

‘Analogue Creatures’ is a slick return to the drifting, expansive electronica that occupied Spigel and Newman in the Nineties, but it’s also yet another evolution of this stop-start-stop collaboration. It doesn’t necessary signal a return to the prominence that the duo gave Immersion in the formative Swim~ days, but despite a long period of absence during which they focussed on the classic guitar-bass-drums formation, the pair are showing that they’re every bit as intrigued by synth music as they ever were.

A full interview I held with Malka Spigel and Colin Newman about the new Immersion record will appear in the next issue of Electronic Sound. Electronic Sound is available at the App Store or electronicsound.co.uk.

(c) 2016 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

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