The Wire magazine’s biannual smorgasbord of contemporary sounds comes free with the April edition of the magazine. As ever, it’s an eclectic 20 track romp through all things avant garde, experimental and esoteric. I don’t know if it’s just me, but are these things getting mellower with the passing years? The quality control department certainly seems more vigilant than it used to be. There are some superb pieces on the CD.
But first the clunkers. To be fair, there’s nothing truly awful. The Phog Masheen track “Survey Of Brutality” has an interesting genesis. It was recorded using contact mikes on the valves of a trumpet. The result, though, is less interesting – pretty much a barrage of formless noise. Japan’s Setsubun Bean Unit combine tuba and vibraphone with a bouncy nursery school rhythm which shouts “look at me, I’m mad me!” which I find intensely irritating. There are a few other tracks which are OK, if nowt special. The live recording of GF Fitzgerald and Lol Coxhill dates back 33 years. It’s not altogether surprising that it’s taken until now to see the light of day. Alexei Borisov and Anton Nikkila’s laptop manipulations are also taken from a live recording. In the digital age, every damn musical fart seems to be considered deserving of a release. Nobody seems to be capable of self-editing any more – this track being a case in point, even if it is available only as a download.
Stop moaning – it’s free! OK, gripes over. There is a lot of excellent stuff here. Some are new names to me. For instance, Nico Muhly whose contribution “Mothertongue – Section 2” is a rich and warm chamber piece overlaid by a Babel-like babble of soprano voices (or multi-tracked voice). It’s both beautiful and unsettling, weird but comfortably familiar. Pink Skull’s funky techno meets free jazz meets electro-minimalism is impressive too. Of the more familiar names, Yellow6’s slightly spaghetti-western guitar drone is as impressive as ever. Talvin Singh’s east-west fusion rarely disappoints, and Mike Ladd’s contribution is a top drawer slice of jazz-rap. Finally I get to hear Our Sleepless Forest too. There’s been a hubbub of positive noise about the band for months now, usually accompanied with an aside that they are young enough to make the Arctic Monkeys seem like wizened old timers. “Nomads” is their contribution to Wire Tapper 19. And it’s very good indeed. It has echoes of Susumu Yokota as a muted skank rhythm underpins an ambient stroll through the babble of a tropical rain forest. Actually that makes it sound like one of those fucking awful ethno-ambient crusty acts from the mid nineties. It sounds nothing like that at all.
The mag itself has Gudrun Gut on the cover, plus Michael Rother (trying not to be horrible about Klaus Dinger and failing!), Benga, Robert Hood and Henry Cow (who I’ve always steered clear of because of a schoolmate who would insist on playing them, Hatfield & The North, Caravan and Gong at every opportunity – the horror!).
1 OUR SLEEPLESS FOREST nomads
2 SNORKEL the conversation
3 NICO MUHLY mother tongue – section 2
4 GF FITZGERALD & LOL COXHILL echoes of duneden
5 XA CUTE FEAT. MIKE LADD survival of the vinyl
6 DANIEL FIGGIS VIA SOMADRONE 40 shades of figgis
7 FLUORESCENT GREY molten ghost
8 KAFFE MATTHEWS men being butterflies
9 ALEXEI BORISOV & ANTON NIKKILA engineer Strepetov’s curve
10 TALVIN SINGH piya milan
11 ILLUSION OF SAFETY wherewithall (for Lauren)
12 THE MASTER MUSICIANS OF HOP-FROG song of the south
13 PHOG MASHEEN survey of brutality
14 SETSUBUN BEAN UNIT gujo ondo
15 PINK SKULL u.g.uo.aaahhhhh
16 LOWDYNAMICORCHESTRA improvisation 1
17 LARS AKERLUND volt
18 TANGTYPE blank lackluster eyes…data takes over
19 YELLOW6 you can’t be everywhere he said
20 NEVER ENOUGH HOPE des moines