THE WIRE: 20 YEARS 1982-2002
TRIPLE CD BOX MUTE, PLAYGROUND RELEASE:
NOVEMBER 18, 2002 REVIEW: FEBRUARY 3, 2003
Wire is perhaps the greatest critical voice in the independent music world.
While the British magazine has had its ups and downs, at times taking
on an elitist, academic approach only to repent and place Björk on
the cover, the pages of the Wire generally present a free haven for serious
discussion about music from the fringes. It has harboured legendary music
journalists like Simon Reynolds, David Toop and Kodwo Eshun and fought
viscously for Japanese minimalism, introspective noise jazz, weird electronica
and God knows what else. The word “post rock” is even said
to have been invented on their pages.
Electronic music is increasingly dissected, categorized and placed in
a historical context. Last year Rough Trade released their “Electronic
1” as a kind of attempt to chart out a subjective development of
electronic music from the seventies to the present. Though The Wire also
includes other types of music like various ethnic music, Jamaican dub
and jazz improvisation, the same idea can be glimpsed. One of the tape
recording experiments of William S Burroughs is represented, as well as
minimal and industrial pieces through the eighties and nineties.
Reviewing a (multiple) album with a plethora of different styles like
this is tricky. While it is filled with little gems like “Simple
Headphone Mind” - the unique collaboration between Stereolab and
Nurse with Wound - the tracks do not rest comfortably together. Some of
the more difficult, noisy or minimal tracks that sound fantastic in their
natural environment (like on the original albums) are taken out of context
and destroyed when followed by Fela Kuti singing live or the echoing grooves
of King Tubby. Trying to listen to any of the three records in one stretch
is therefore not very pleasant.
For maximum enjoyment, the box should be seen for what it is, a selective
encyclopedia of songs and pieces covered and endorsed by The Wire. Take
the opportunity to find out what Keiji Haino’s band Fushitsusha
actually sounds like, and listen to Ennio Morricone outside his movie
soundtrack context. But don’t expect any smooth DJ-sets.