Bruce Gilbert This Way Review

Released 2009.  

BBC Review

Remastered slice of experimental noise from Wire guitarist.

Louis Pattison 2009

It’s a great injustice that Wire have become fixed in history as little more than a blueprint to Britpop, the prickly punk of 1977’s Pink Flag laying down the formula that Blur and Elastica would later pick up and run with. It is, however, also understandable. Pink Flag and its two follow-ups, 1978’s Chairs Missing and 1979’s 154 are amongst the greatest of the era, intelligent and ingenious rock records a good two decades ahead of their time. What would come after, meanwhile, was often far off pop’s map.

First released in 1984 on Mute, This Way was the debut solo LP from Bruce Gilbert, Wire’s guitarist and a former studio technician with a taste for outer-limits synthesiser sounds. That this reissue appears on Peter Rehberg’s reliably experimental Editions Mego imprint complete with remastering job by Russell Haswell is a clue we’re not dealing with angular music here – but then, nor is This Way quite as punishing as those names suggest.

The first two tracks are the product of a commission to compose a dance soundtrack for Michael Clark, enfant terrible of British ballet who would also work with The Fall’s Mark E Smith. Key is the 20-minute opener, a gorgeous piece of celestial drone reminiscent of Klaus Schulze, choral synthesisers interrupted by slow gusts of static.

Before long, though, it’s developed a rudimentary dynamic, orbiting slowly between warmth and chill with occasional invasive effects – nose-diving Spitfire drones, shrill synth cries, a slow-motion melody that unfurls with an eerie lack of hurry.

Nothing else here can match it, but there’s intriguing stuff nonetheless. The second Clark piece is a rather murky, dystopian piece undercut by clanking drum machines that bizarrely, just minutes from the end, explodes like a trance anthem, filtered synths flashing like strobes. Finally, the album concludes with two short compositions, the mechanical Here Visit and U, Mu, U, a music concrete-like piece apparently simulating a steam train at full tilt.

For anyone with a fascination for synth noise, or even the less-trod areas of the British experimental underground, This Way is history worth revisiting.

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