During Wire’s lengthy hiatus (1980 to 1986), bassist Graham Lewis and guitarist B.C. (Bruce) Gilbert continued their partnership — often under the name Dome — to explore the outer reaches of studio technique and synthetic sound, sidestepping Wire’s arcane hitmaking tendencies and Colin Newman’s more classical aspirations.
Dome abandons conventional song form for a hodgepodge of treated instruments and voices, with lurching mechanical noises infrequently keeping a vague beat; melodies fragment under studio manipulation. Eerie. 3R4 moves into the ambient drone music pioneered by Brian Eno, and its four tracks achieve an almost symphonic effect. Dome 2 continues the ambient/minimalist experimentation of the first two albums, painting audio expressions of modern ennui, but Dome 3 breaks stride, lifting the beats of other cultures and mixing them with abstracted bits of psychedelia and disembodied noises. The 71-minute 8 Time CD combines the contents of 3R4 with two singles released around the time under the name Cupol.
MZUI/Waterloo Gallery, done in conjunction with Russell Mills, makes extensive use of found noises and self-made instruments. Microphones placed around a London art gallery collected intentional and unintentional sounds from inside and out. The arhythmic result isn’t music per se, but a curious examination of the relationship between environment and sound.
Will You Speak This Word combines some of Dome 3‘s ethnic borrowings with the repetitive minimalism of earlier works. The suite-like “To Speak” takes up all of one side; it begins with quasi-Arabic violin and random, atonal sax, moving into an acoustic guitar/sax/pseudo-African drum drone with slowly shifting textures before ending with extraterrestrial electronics. An interesting and well-composed piece. The other side’s six tracks mix primal drum rhythms with light touches of art-noise generated on a variety of instruments, building intriguing trances. A progressive album in the truest sense of the term.
Duet Emmo was a one-off project by Gilbert, Lewis and Mute Records chief Daniel Miller (the name is an anagram of Dome and Mute). Or So It Seems fluctuates between atonal, electronic sound collages and stiff, monotonous synth-funk reminiscent of D.A.F., with no track ever getting off the ground. Fun studio noodling no doubt, but not of lasting import.
Gilbert’s This Way features a three-part suite (“Do You Me? I Did”) commissioned by Michael Clark, leader of England’s hippest dance troupe (the company has worked with the Fall and performed in New Order’s “True Faith” video). Part of the Clark’s uniqueness lies in his selection of music: much of “Do You Me?” is about as arhythmic as Music for Airports, but more dissonant. The remaining two tracks are mostly percolating electronics that move in and out of synch.
Much more in line with Dome’s experimental approach, The Shivering Man is a meandering instrumental collection of spare sonic doodles. (Some of the tracks were commissioned by artist Angela Conway, a vocalist on He Said’s Hail, and the Paris Opera Ballet.) Employing the kind of electronic production devices that often enliven adventurous modern music, the only component missing from The Shivering Man is the music itself. (This Way to the Shivering Man is a compilation containing about half the tracks from Gilbert’s first two albums.) Insiding consists of two side-long pieces created for dance pieces by choreographer Ashley Page.
Released the same year as Wire’s reformation, the first album by He Said, Lewis’ flexible studio project, includes contributions by Gilbert, co-producer/programmer John Fryer, Eno and others. The well-organized music — essentially effects-laden electro-beats with ethereal vocals — never quite finds its stylistic voice, although individual passages are impressive.
The follow-up, Take Care, is basically another collaboration with Fryer (only two cuts feature anyone else). While the general approach is similar to the thinking person’s atmospheric electro-pop (at times not unlike Wire) on Hail, the album contains a surprising detour into rap (“A.B.C. Dicks Love”); otherwise, the long (five or six minutes each) songs sound — or at least feel — kind of samey. The final two tracks were composed as music for an avant-garde ballet.