THE WIRE: 20 YEARS 1982-2002

The 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.