Wire

"Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time…," laughs Colin Newman when asked to explain Wire's original motivation for Change Becomes Us. While that might sound like the kind of feeble excuse you'd offer in mitigation when a drunken escapade goes horribly wrong, not only was it a good idea, it actually turned into a superlative one.

In spring 2012, Wire's plan had been to convene at Rockfield Studios in Wales to review the rudimentary blueprints of songs that had never made it beyond a few live performances in 1979 and 1980 – a time when the band-members were in creative overdrive yet the band itself was disintegrating. The aim wasn't simply to resuscitate and record old songs; in fact, many of them hadn't become proper songs in the first place, existing only as basic ideas or undeveloped parts. Rather, the objective was to approach that unrealized work as an oblique strategy, a potential springboard for Wire's contemporary, forward-looking processes – a possible point of departure for new compositions.

This took place with Wire firing on all cylinders, as a four-piece studio entity again, the core line-up of Newman, Graham Lewis and Robert Grey now enhanced by guitarist Matthew Simms. Simms had played a key role in helping the band to cultivate and shape its new sonic landscape throughout the preceding year's live work. Out of the exploratory Rockfield session and subsequent, extensive development and production at Newman's Swim Studio, the ostensible source material became, in the classic Wire tradition, something quite other than what it may have once been – or what it might have become if it had been pursued in 1980.

"Love Bends" is a case in point. Its roots lie in "Piano Tuner (Keep Strumming Those Guitars)" – the raucous, octave-hopping number performed in February 1980 at the Electric Ballroom in Camden and preserved on Document and Eyewitness. But it's now morphed, improbably, into an irresistible, totally modern pop song. "It had to be turned into something else," explains Lewis, "because it only really had one bit." Just as improbably, the gently lilting "Re-invent Your Second Wheel" is tangentially connected to the notorious "Zegk Hoqp," which was more of a one-time happening than a song at the Camden gig: mostly shouting and banging, executed by a stage-full of Wire cronies in funny hats. "It was written for performance, around people with newspaper headdresses; not with music in mind," Lewis emphasizes. Similarly transformed, "& Much Besides" is a six-minute oneiric-melodic interlude that gives no hint of its putative origins in "Eastern Standard" – a dreary, obtuse three-minute track from the Electric Ballroom concert.

Newman's songwriting and production on Change Becomes Us reimagines the past in ways that ultimately break any substantive connection with it, making entirely new pieces – and these songs themselves enact Wire's restless drive to become other, often thriving on a fundamental tension between opposing sonic characteristics. With its stop-start, soft-hard, quiet-loud structure, "Adore Your Island" veers between what Newman describes as "prog and unhinged punk rock," never quite resolving itself; the drama of "Attractive Space" hinges on a progressive splitting of the song's personality, between its calm, expansive, anthemic orientation and an increasing sense of intensity and claustrophobia.

Change Becomes Us encapsulates the paradoxical essence of Wire's creativity. The tendency of these new songs to refuse a single, settled identity is emblematic of the band's ever-evolving aesthetic – one that's always hinged on sustained tensions and oppositions: between the familiar and the unfamiliar, the comfortable and the unsettling, the melodic and the brutal, the cerebral and the visceral, the smart and the moronic, the obvious and the inscrutable, the rational and the absurd. This intrinsic, core ambivalence generates the essential otherness that has characterized Wire's most memorable, distinctive work – from the epochal innovations of Chairs Missing and 154 to the electronic-pop deconstructions of A Bell Is A Cup to Send's postmodern-punk expressionism and the widescreen lyricism of Red Barked Tree.

Change Becomes Us is an undeniable part of that illustrious lineage. Definitely more than just a good idea at the time.

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.

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Wire with Bear In Heaven

Saturday, July 13 · Doors 8:00 PM / Show 8:30 PM at Union Transfer