Following the release of their self-titled album last year, Wire return with news of a new mini-album Nocturnal Koreans, due April 29th via pinkflag. Listen to the first single and title-track below, “chronicling a sleepless night that Wire spent in a seedy Boston-area hotel on their 2013 US tour”.
Bassist Graham Lewis’s lyrics make this one of guitarist Matthew Simms’s favourites on the record, largely because of the associated memories. Speaking about the track, Simms said “It’s a great snapshot of touring America, and when I hear or play that song, it reminds me of the many weird and wonderful times, places and people that cross your path.”
Having completed a preliminary round of work on their 2015 album at Rockfield Studios, Wire found themselves with 19 tracks. Among them, there was a critical mass of 11 aesthetically unified songs, which made up the WIRE album. In typical Wire fashion, however, the remaining material was something other: it had the sound of a band already moving in a different direction, beyond the album project in which they were engaged at that time. These tracks were the basis for Nocturnal Koreans.
The difference between the two clusters of work birthed at Rockfield has its roots in discrete approaches to the studio process itself. “The WIRE album was quite respectful of the band,” explains Colin Newman, “and Nocturnal Koreans is less respectful of the band—or, more accurately, it’s the band being less respectful to itself—in that it’s more created in the studio, rather than recorded basically as the band played it, which was mostly the case with WIRE. A general rule for this record was: any trickery is fair game, if it makes it sound better.” Nocturnal Koreans emphasises studio construction over authentic performance, using the recording environment as an instrument, not just as a simple means of capturing Wire playing. After Rockfield, the band reconvened at Brighton Electric studios to contribute additional parts, and the work was then further honed and developed by Newman at Swim studio.
Wire aren’t exactly famous for thumping-great major-chord anthems, but “Still” is just that. “Graham hated it,” says Newman, “because it’s all major chords. I’d in fact used them quite deliberately. I was thinking about ‘Map Ref.’—which is all major chords—and how most of my songs have minor chords in them, or even weirdo chords, jazz chords. So this was like making a song with an almost bog-standard riff: there’s a billion records with that chord sequence.” The wide-screen scope of “Still,” which sounds massive despite its sub-three minute duration, comes down to Newman’s production choices, starting with Robert Grey’s drums: “We had Rob re-record his parts on everything through a mini-disc to create another layer of drums and ambience squashed with compression, so it sounds more lively and distorted and a bit more modern. You could accuse us of being fashion-conscious, but your records have to live in the world with lots of other releases, and you can’t sound a bit old-fashioned. So, on ‘Still’ we made the drums heavier and then the guitars heavier, with some synth underneath doing the same chords, so you end up with this big, rolling sound.”
No Wire album would be truly complete without a Graham Lewis lead vocal, and the closing “Fishes Bones” doesn’t disappoint. Just when you think Lewis isn’t going to show up—after seven tracks on which Newman sings lead—it’s as if the studio door has been kicked open and there he is, a deranged thespian delivering a disciplined-yet-unhinged stream-of-consciousness slam to a driving, increasingly chaotic accompaniment. Simms found this track liberating, as it opened up creative space for the band members to express themselves: “Recording ‘Fishes Bones’ in Rockfield was exciting to me as it’s the only song for those sessions that was able to be approached differently, in that it was written as a band and Graham added the vocals later the same evening. I think it contains aspects of the interesting identity of each musician in Wire and presents them together in an unusual way, the result of which I like a lot.”
By Wilson Neate (author of Pink Flag and Read & Burn: A Book about Wire)
‘Nocturnal Koreans’ track list:
Wire Tour Dates:
10th Mar – Con Club, Lewes, UK
11th Mar – Komedia, Bath, UK
12th Mar – Cosmosis Festival, Manchester, UK
22nd-24th Apr – ATP, Prestatyn (curated by Drive Like Jehu), UK
27-29th Apr – GetMAD! Festival, Madrid, Spain