In 1980, venerable punk band Wire had burned itself out. Touring, three albums, and an odd flirtation with commercial success took their toll, and so the band decided to indulge in a creative hiatus; each member would dive into solo projects and releases, and when they decided the time was right, they would reconvene, utilize the knowledge and experiences they had gained from their solo work, and take Wire to a whole new level. It’s a formula that they’ve employed for nearly forty years, and the results are often quite compelling—as, too, are their solo works.
Superior Viaduct has recently reissued two of those many offerings from the band’s first split, two works from BC Gilbert and Graham Lewis—a twelve inch single and a seven inch single, both released on a fledgling 4AD. Ivo Watts-Russell would indulge the two, as well as frontman Colin Newman, as he was a Wire fan and wanted to be involved.
3R4, released in 1980, was the second collaboration they released. The album consisted of two minute-long pieces called “Barge Calm,” and two epic movements. The first side, “3:4,” is a quiet, hushed industrial ambient piece. On one hand, it feels like a poorly-recorded field recording of a robotic assembly line; bleeps and blips are perfectly timed, creating a syncopated rhythm that is curious yet cold. The second side, “R,” is a bit more structured—it is a straight ambient piece, not unlike the work of Brian Eno—and is a bit more enjoyable. One is transported into the heavens, and the twenty minute journey is a hushed, relaxed one. It fares better than the previous piece, and is devoid of the tedium of “3:4.”
The single, released the following year, is a much more structured sound. Though “Ends With The Sea” has a harsh industrial buzz and deadpan vocals, it’s an interesting number nonetheless. It pales, though, in comparison to the B-side, “Hung Up To Dry Whilst Building An Arch,” which comes complete with a programmed rhythm and its own sort of dark, ominous groove that would have sounded right at home on Factory Records.
Like most things Wire, the duo moved onto other projects, most notably Dome, and would continue a path of sonic experimentation that is equally compelling, unique, and frustrating. These two little blips on the discography not only enhance their work, but also serve as evidence of the budding 4AD’s commitment to unique, interesting, intelligent sound. And here’s hoping that Like This For Ages, the first of the duo’s 4AD records–released under the name Cupol–also sees release, as it too fits wonderfuly aside these two interesting records.