Bear In Heaven
1026 Spring Garden St.
Philadelphia, PA, 19123
Doors 8:00 PM / Show 8:30 PM
This event is all ages
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 influences.
"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 rhythmic momentum. 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 the process.
"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.
Bear In Heaven
Bear in Heaven have trapped echos, tremors, winds, and fading light. Theyve redefined time, and folded it. Theyve unbuttoned sound, and realigned it. Within four walls in Brooklyn, Jon Philpot, Adam Wills, Sadek Bazaara, and Joe Stickney mined the democracy of their collaboration, plus the endless hours of streamofconsciousness recorded documentation of rehearsals over the past years, to conceive the crystalline form of Beast Rest Forth Mouth, their second album, their exaltation.
A seed planted in the Southern US years ago (all members hail from Georgia or Alabama), Bear In Heaven began as the musical arm of Jon Philpot in 1998. Time eventually brought in a slew of players, like rickety scaffolding, that grew the sound and guided the group to morph from a 6to5to4piece. As a fourheaded organism, Bear In Heaven has now found a sonic stride unlike any in their history. Freely acknowledging the importance of the number four, the album Beast Rest Forth Mouth (think 'East West North South') was a conscious product of the four compass points, of the four makers, and of the inevitable confusion that manifests from that crossroad mentality: four directions could lead you anywhere and everywhere. Its the acknowledgement of what can go down at that convergence, at that dusty center, that drives Bear In Heaven and imbues the songs of Beast Rest Forth Mouth with something akin to both eternal peace and nervous urgency.
Preceding Beast Rest Forth Mouth is 2007s Red Bloom of the Boom, a 7track, 43minute exploration that crosses the streams of psychedelia and prog. Pitchfork called it 'a true cohesive work in an era when the albumasart form appears to be slowly dying' (7.8), and The Onion found it 'a powerful, functional mix of This Heat, 70s soft rock, early Genesis, and oddly, later Pink Floyd.' The album was further informed by a collection of remarkable music videos by the band and their collaborators, providing a mirror into both the creative scope of the Bear In Heaven consciousness, not to mention the day jobs they keep as editors, filmmakers, and designers. The packaging and visuals for Beast Rest Forth Mouth continue in this tradition, the band collaborating with artist Laura Brothers to create the tactile doorway into the sonic swirl of the album.
Feeding the Bear In Heaven process further is a collection of extracurricular activities. Jon Philpot recently collaborated with Roberto Lange on his Helado Negro project (Roberto also had a hand in the final mix of Beast Rest Forth Mouth), as well as performed live with neighbors and labelmates Stars Like Fleas. Adam Wills has played and toured with Jonathan Kanes February Rhys Chathams Guitar Trio, and started a new band with Joe Stickney called Dark Vibe. Joe Stickney was one of the drummers in the Boredomsled 88 Boadrum last summer. Jon, Sadek, and Adam were three of the two hundred guitarists in Rhys Chathams recent Crimson Grail performance at Lincoln Center.
Beast Rest Forth Mouth will first reveal itself through a limited 12' EP of the track 'Wholehearted Mess,' out September 8 on Hometapes. Bear In Heaven curated remixes from Pink Skull, Max Brannslokker, and Arclike, simultaneously creating a unique tributary off their own musical flow and a bona fide clubfriendly 12' pressed in multicolor vinyl. Tour dates across the east coast and the south will accompany the album release, adding yet another dimension to the prism of Bear In Heaven, built on sound and vision and everything in the inbetween.