'Nocturnal Koreans' is the latest instalment in what has been Wire's longest uninterrupted stint as a band, and finds the group revisiting the slickly-executed style and sound that characterised the very final years of their 1980s period; a period just before drummer Robert Gotobed moved on and before the remaining bandmembers dropped a letter from their name and regrouped as Wir, a Wire where machine rhythms were woven through Gotobed's own machine-like playing.
This mini album sees Wire once again looking askance at modernity via cryptic cynicism, bassist Graham Lewis's obtuse lyrics reaching new levels of vexatious impenetrability. Musically, the songs here veer from tight, taut, sinewy rock ('Nocturnal Koreans', 'Numbered')' through to dreamy, anthemic, almost stadium-friendly grandeur ('Dead Weight'), and onward into slow-building atmospherics ('Forward Position', 'Pilgrim Trade').
Never a group to fully revisit past glories, this release nevertheless finds the band obliquely referencing earlier songs – 'Numbered' references 'Three Girl Rhumba' from their debut LP ('Pink Flag'), while 'Forward Position' shares the same textural adventurousness that made 'It's Beginning To And Back Again' a complete revolution away from their punk / post-punk roots. These pieces create a virtual feedback loop with extra-curricular Wire projects like Colin Newman's Immersion techno duo with wife Malka Spigel or guitarist Matthew Simms's found-sound Slows releases.
It's now fully 40 years since Wire's first tentative, punk-inspired recordings. From that perspective, no-one would necessarily expect anything new from this group; however, this is Wire, and Wire only know how to plough one furrow – their own. Nothing changes, but yet everything's different. That's Wire 40 years in.
Words: Mat Smith / @mjasmith
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