Right from their inception in 1976, back in the first stirrings of punk, Wire went about making music in a subversive, conceptual way, setting themselves apart from both their peers and their
“I had this idea that I wanted to avoid things that had a particular kind of tradition,” explains singer and guitarist Colin Newman. “I thought the three-chord trick was too simplistic and that the one-chord trick would be better. Or the two chord trick where the second chord is definitely not the right chord.”
Bass guitarist and vocalist Graham Lewis identifies another trait that has run throughout the group’s lifetime. “People said we were mysterious, arch and dark. But the only way of doing that successfully, is by also having a sense of humour. You have to have that balance. With Wire there’s a peculiarity, a contrariness and that can be funny."
This questing approach has permeated Wire’s songwriting, their onstage presentation, even the decision, back in the 80s, for Robert Grey to strip his drumkit down to just bass drum, snare and
hi-hat. And it has served them well in guarding against repetition and cliché. In context, Wire’s last album, 2013’s aptly titled Change Becomes Us was another case of “Expect the unexpected”, as it found them extensively reworking a rich cache of material abandoned amid a temporary break-up in the early 80s.
Their 13th studio album - simply titled Wire – comprises material that was written with the album in mind, but toured extensively first, as well as songs that Newman introduced to the group in the studio just prior to recording. The idea was to get the most spontaneous reaction possible from the musicians, and far from the rough and ready results one might expect from such a tack, Wire is full of swooning pop melodies with a 60s tinge and an irresistible, near motorik rhythmicmomentum. One can recognise certain melodic inflections, guitar and bass motifs, and drum rhythms from Wire’s idiosyncratic vocabulary but it has a remarkable freshness.
The basic tracks were recorded at Rockfield Studios near Monmouth, with overdubs added at Brighton Electric last December following the group’s DRILL : BRIGHTON Festival. The 11 tracks selected for release were the ones that came together most naturally.
From the outset Wire was an alliance between four very different characters and continues today with the addition, in 2012, of It Hugs Back guitarist Matthew Simms, who is around thirty years
younger than the other group members. “With Matt there was a really new dynamic that had appeared in the group’s sound and that was something we wanted to capture, utilise and be creative with,” says Lewis.
Wire is the first album where Simms has been involved in formulating the material from the ground up, but when the group’s particular chemistry starts working he is now very much part of
“With ‘Sleepwalking’, I don’t think we even ran all the way through it before we recorded it. ”Newman says. “Wire do this thing so well and there’s instant atmosphere. There’s my rhythm guitar, Matt playing lap steel, Graham (Lewis) playing bass with effects – there’s as much effects as bass - and Rob’s tolling drumming. It was already almost sustainable for six minutes with just that.”
Lewis also provides most of the lyrics for the album, their subject matter encompassing love songs, cryptic narratives and coded messages. One time, Newman asked Lewis to send over some unfinished, unformatted text so he wouldn’t be bound by what to use for the chorus. This material spawned two songs written on the same day, ‘Split Your Ends’ and the droll ‘In Manchester’. The latter has one of the album’s loveliest melodies, but it’s no coded paean to the city in its Baggy heyday. Instead this process led to the disorientating and rather absurd situation of having “In Manchester” as a soaring chorus, when the song is not about Manchester beyond a single line in the lyric.
As the album progresses, some of the sunlit pop tunes become more shadowy and it ultimately plunges into the musical black hole of ‘Harpooned’, eight churning minutes of the group’s darkest, most abrasive music to date, and a favourite in live performances since 2013.
Big money offers have been made to Wire to become part of the Heritage Rock industry, to get the original line-up back together and play only 70s music. These have all been unequivocally
turned down. Fun though that might be, why plant yourself firmly back in the past when you are making new music this potent with the promise of more in the future?
“The point where our personal narratives meet is all about change - moving on and keeping it interesting for ourselves,” says Newman. “We’re in it for the long haul and this is a one-way trip.”
Wire will be launched by the fourth event in the band's DRILL series entitled DRILL : LEXINGTON - five nights (14-18 April) at the Lexington in London with Wire headlining, plus a different
"curated" support each night. This will be followed by a UK tour. Further non-UK dates & events will be announced soon.
Here's the deal. In 2012, people loved Silver Age (to a degree that surprised me, pleasantly), likewise Beauty & Ruin in 2014 (despite the heaviness of the subject matter, which I thought might be a bit alienating… apparently not. Another pleasant surprise.).
But PATCH THE SKY is the darkest one.
After the Letterman performance in February 2015 where "dust fell from the rafters," it would have seemed logical to go the punk rock route—an entire album of two-minute songs—but that wasn't where my soul was at.
I withdrew from everyday life. I wrote alone for six months. I love people, but I needed my solitude. The search for my own truth kept me alive. These songs are my salvation.
I've had a solid stretch of hard emotional times, and thanks for the condolences in advance. I don't want to go into the details—more death, relationships ending, life getting shorter—because they're already in the songs. Just listen and see if you can fit yourself into my stories. The words make you remember. The music makes you forget.
But PATCH THE SKY is also the catchiest one.
I always aim for the perfect balance of bright melodies and dark stories. I've used this juxtaposition for years. This time, I've tuned it to high contrast.
The first side of the album is generally simple and catchy. The second side is heavier in spirit and tone. Opposing forces and properties. I love both sides of PATCH THE SKY.
At the core of these songs is what I call the chemical chorus—you hear it once and your brain starts tingling. The heart rate picks up. It gets worse—you know it's coming again and you can barely stand the anticipation. Then, the beautifully heartbreaking bridge appears, and you're all set up—hooked for life. Music is an incredibly powerful drug. I want to be your drug dealer. I have what you need.
On the current band.
I'm currently in the best band in the world with Jon Wurster on drums and Jason Narducy on bass. We've been working together since March 2008. Jon and Jason are involved in many quality projects, and I'm amazed they find the time to play music with me. I am always thankful for their contributions.
On the recording process.
Beau Sorenson engineered the tracking sessions at Electrical Audio in Chicago. We all played really hard, and I used very loud amps. We mixed PATCH THE SKY at Different Fur in San Francisco. Bob Weston mastered the album at Chicago Mastering Service. Sonically, it's deeper and richer than the previous two albums.
On the state of my music.
Beyond the aforementioned trials of life, I found myself thinking about the 1970s, where heavy metal, soft rock, and confessional singer/songwriters collided (and gay porno was better). I circled back to the forgotten sounds of my teen years, and how I used to absorb, learn, and emulate in order to create.
When I was younger, I always felt the need to justify my work. These days, I don't have time or energy for that. I only want to finish the songs that get stuck in my head for days and weeks and months on end. And add lots of guitar solos.
On the last campaign, I had a song called "Little Glass Pill" that talked about "a window and a mirror." That's what music is to me, both as creator and lifelong fan. The window—where you can see inside my soul. The mirror—where I look to find my own truth. When the inspiration hits, roll with it. Write what you live, love, and know.
Apparently I've been given some special dispensation. How many musicians get to play loud rock at 55 and still have an audience?
It's amazing that people from so many different cities, countries, ages, and walks of life all continue to find something in common in my music. I take the art form very seriously; I appreciate being recognized for my efforts, and I'm incredibly grateful for the time I've had in the light. I like the brightness, and Lord knows I've got darkness covered.
* * *
Anyhow—let's try to make something enjoyable out of all the heaviness of life and death and love and failure and fear and regret that we all go through. Talk with me about normal stuff. Ask me fun questions. I'll say some crazy shit because I'm old. Kids will think I'm out of touch with modern times. I love it. Let's do it.
Mikal Cronin + string & horn ensemble
MCIII is the third album from Californian singer-songwriter Mikal Cronin. Marked by the lush arrangements, stunning melodies, and deeply personal lyrical work for which Cronin is now known, the album is also a deliberate attempt to simply "go big."
Written and recorded over the course of 2014, between long bouts of touring, MCIII finds the Laguna Beach native splitting his latest full-length statement into two distinct halves. On Side A, behold a shimmering tsunami of furious, undeniable pop songs. On Side B, marvel at a beautifully wrought concept record in miniature, built around the radiant retelling of what Cronin calls his "coming-of-age" story: After leaving California to go to school in the Pacific Northwest, he found himself alone and adrift, struggling with debilitating back pain and a dissolving sense of self. "It's about a pivotal moment in my life that changed things, just within a couple of months," he says. "It was a shifting point that sent me on the path to doing what I'm doing right now."
As he did on his self-titled 2011 debut and 2013's MCII, Cronin arranged and played nearly all of the record himself, including the tzouras, a traditional Greek string instrument he heard and subsequently bought while on tour in Athens. There's French horn, saxophone, and trumpet. There are mood-altering crescendos and heartbreaking turns-of-phrase, guitars both gorgeous and pugnacious. No longer satisfied with the sound of "just one string player," Cronin arranged parts for a full string quartet instead.
"It's a continuation of what I've been trying to do up until now, but I'm finding a better way to do it," he says. "I'm finding a more successful way of working those unexpected elements and textures and instruments into a rock record, of exploring that wormhole and mushing everything together harmoniously. I like riding the line between the two," he adds. "I like finding new ways to bring different musical worlds together."
Have You In My Wilderness is Julia Holter's most intimate album yet, a collection of radiant ballads. Her follow-up to 2013's widely celebrated Loud City Song explores love, trust, and power in human relationships. While love songs are familiar fodder in pop music, Holter manages to stay fascinatingly oblique and enigmatic on her new album.
Have You in My Wilderness is also Holter's most sonically intimate album. Here, she and producer Cole Marsden Greif-Neill lift her voice out of the layers of smeared, hazy effects, putting her vocals front and center in the mix. The result is striking—it sounds as if Holter is singing right in your ear. It sounds clear and vivid, but also disarmingly personal. The focused warm sound and instrumentation — dense strings, subtle synth pads — adds to the effect.
Like Holter's previous albums, Have You in My Wilderness is multi-layered and texturally rich, featuring an array of electronic and acoustic instruments played by an ensemble of gifted Los Angeles musicians.
Have You In My Wilderness deals with dark themes, but it also features some of the most sublime and transcendent music Holter has ever written. The ten songs on the album are shimmering and dreamlike, wandering the liminal space between the conscious and the subconscious.
Mild High Club
WELCOME TO THE MILD HIGH CLUB
" A STONE IN THE ZEN GARDEN OF LA SLACK FUNK PSYCHEDELIA"- kcrw
Laetitia Sadier's new album has just been delivered, and it's a joy! Something Shines took nine months to create, record, and mature: you know what that means, baby! New life….
Alternating between a riveting caress and an invigorating shake, the songs of Something Shines start from the Earth and tilt up towards the sky, before coming back down to the planet again. Taking it all in, Something Shines is also an exploration through Debord's La Société du Spectacle, and how it is still up to us to guide and shape our fate, individually and collectively. Laetitia examines several relevant questions – such as the main inquiry of "Oscuridad": "Do the rich need the poor to be rich?" The song examines the war being led against the lower classes of this world by the ultra-rich to rob them (us!) even further of their (our!) resources. On the riveting caress-side side of things, "Life Is Winning" is a subtle reminder to get in touch with the innate joy and revelation of living.
All these thoughts and many others are communicated with delicately textured production, twinkling and shifting with the subtlety of nature. Often sounding like the world outside, whooshing and chirping and clicking in time, placing these concerns in the place where we live, Something Shines reflects the lives hanging in the balance between issues, lives that are often too small to see yet contribute to the world as a whole. Even in the face of realities that continue to cripple so many in the name of so few, Something Shines consistently elevates itself with lyrical confidence, intimacy, and an arcing musicality that allows it to go to the hearts and minds of every listener.
Part Time Punks
Once and Future Band
Announcing CF-083 Once and Future Band
In the vapor trail of "How Does It Make You Feel" you can smell the burnt ozone of a seventies-full-orchestra-nebula-pop-odyssey, the flakes floating down and landing on you like snow and giving you the grave-chills…the ash of a masterpiece pop song. Once and Future Band: this incredibly accomplished cabal of total prog wizards has circled the earth, but then, these are the accomplished gentlemen of many former pursuits (the formidable Drunk Horse among them) and all of them comets themselves. The very mid 70s vibe at work here surpasses pastiche, and crests that lovely anachronistic conceptual peak: a fully realized and meticulously arranged psych record, meant to be listened to from top to bottom, with the lights down low and in a comfy chair perhaps, or while gazing out the window of your life pod. A Dark Side of the Moon feel, with shades of early Yes's technicality, a dash of Steely Dan's vocal prowess and effortless sheen, and some seriously outsized hooks that call to mind the mighty ELO, Le Orme and yes, even the unsinkable Queen powered on Brian May's tape echo jet fuel and sequined power cells…this is a head record in the classic sense but we swear to The Dark One that you will be trapped and infected by the pop-parasite. That it is largely self-produced (with tracking/engineering on three of the songs by Phil Manley at El Studio) makes it all the more jaw dropping. We didn't realize how much we needed Once and Future Band in our life, but now that they're here we can't get them out of our brains or off of our stereo. Making prog cool again, again, and then slightly more complicatedly, again.
Chasms is the San Francisco based project of Jess Labrador and Shannon Madden. The duo crafts percussive dirges that are at once beautiful and menacing. Labrador's haunting vocals and hypnotizing guitar work wade between rhythmic bass lines and bursts of Madden's stinging feedback, laid on a bed of pummeling drum programming. The band's affinity for industrial rhythms, swelling textures, precise minimalism, and chaotic eruptions of noise sounds as equally informed by shoegaze as drone and doom metal—to choose just one would be a disservice.
With Alina Bea, the door might look familiar, but what's behind it is never quite what you expect. Alina is a singer, multi-instrumentalist, and dancer making progressive pop music in Los Angeles. She intertwines inventive compositions and textures with timeless pop song structure and intimate, deeply felt lyrics, leading a voyage to deep space, but showing it to you through a familiar lens. Her recordings carry a carefully honed energy, at one turn tectonic in impact and at the next impossibly delicate.
In live performances over the past year, Alina and her band combine the sophistication of acts like Bjork and St. Vincent with the raw power of artists like Kate Bush and Fiona Apple. Alina's background in dance contributes to a live show that transcends the expected. Her performances are both warrior-strong and disarmingly vulnerable, drawing you in and transporting you to fascinating new places.
This new group of singles, a preview of her forthcoming album, marks a pivotal moment for Alina. On her debut EP, Live Undone, released February 2016 on New Professor, she used a bedroom electro-pop palette to write through the devastating breakup of her old band and her relationship. But Alina's new material looks to the future, both lyrically and musically. Collaborating with producer and composer Theo Karon (Robert Gomez, Cross Record, Idlewild, Liphemra), she has vastly expanded the scope and ambition of her work, drawing new influence from experimental synthesis, electronics, and the classical avant-garde. As her lyrics explore and challenge the darkness within and without, startling and complex textures drawn from acoustic instruments mesh seamlessly with experiments in timbre and tone to form a body of work that is both direct and intricate.
Handling the guitar as her muse, Lipstate summons a sonic palette so rich as to challenge the listener to conceive of how it's housed in a single instrument manipulated by a solitary performer. Her most recent album, Fantastic Planet, is a journey through eclectic sonic terrain, blending rich waves of synth with soaring cinematic guitar lines that guide the listener through Noveller's most diverse and compelling release to date.
Pitchfork writes that Lipstate's "pitch-warped melodies bubble and coalesce into a creeping latticework of booming bass, twitchy drones, and slurred guitar leads… [moving] from pointillist detail to hazy heaviness."
Noveller has toured with Iggy Pop, St. Vincent, Radiolab, Xiu Xiu, the Jesus Lizard, U.S. Girls, & Aidan Baker. Lipstate has collaborated with several renowned musicians, including JG Thirlwell (Foetus, Manorexia), Carla Bozulich (Evangelista, The Geraldine Fibbers), David Wm. Sims (the Jesus Lizard, Scratch Acid) and Lee Ranaldo (Sonic Youth). She has previously performed as a member of Cold Cave, Parts & Labor, and One Umbrella. Lipstate has also participated in Rhys Chatham's Guitar Army, Ben Frost's "Music for 6 Guitars" Ensemble, and Glenn Branca's 100 guitar ensemble.