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Wir: Vien (1997) September 24, 2009

Posted by sjroby in Music.
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Wir: Vien (1997)

Wir: Vien (1997)

I don’t think I’ve actually listened to this before now, and I’ve had it for about a year. Oops.

The band Wire has gone through a few phases of activity and inactivity. There was the punk era Wire, who released three studio albums and a sort of live album before disappearing around 1980, then the version that reappeared for the mid-’80s to mid-’90s, then the one that reappeared earlier in this decade. For part of the second era, they shortened their name to Wir, to reflect the (temporary) departure of drummer Robert Gotobed. This two-song, 25-minute EP was the last thing they released before hibernating.

“The First Letter” begins with five minutes of ambient noise drone before an aggressive rock song starts grinding in, almost industrial, with Colin Newman’s growled distorted vocals, a busy beat, a rhythmic single note medlody, and other guitar (and possibly synth) lines weaving around. And it goes on. Wire once released an album called The Drill, several songs based on more or less the same base, something Wire calls dugga, a repetitive rhythm. This is somewhat similar, as a core song, with no verse/chorus/bridge variations, plays through but different sounds are added and subtracted and different vocals appear and disappear, the song noisily winding down over the last of its sixteen minutes.

“Sexy and Rich (Janet)” starts with some muttered German and synth whooshes, the former disappearing quickly, the latter building up and layering on more sounds gradually (this is reminding me a little of some of Neu!’s quieter tracks right now). Two minutes in, an electric guitar has appeared and the drums are starting to show up in the mix. Whereas the first track switches abruptly from experimental to rockish, this is a much more gradual transition. By three minutes in, Graham Lewis has begun singing. This is a bit more musical and pleasant than the first track, but it’s still a long way from pop music. Well, pop music from a robot’s nightmare, maybe.

This is quite good, actually. The last couple of albums from Wire’s second phase, Wire’s Manscape and Wir’s The First Letter, never did a lot for me. This has me thinking I should give them another chance. And keep this in rotation, too.

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