07 April 2010

Bruce Gilbert - The Shivering Man

Bruce Gilbert was always an odd fish, even in Wire, the oddest punk band of them all. Already 30 when they formed, he seemed more like a college professor than a band member. When he later began to release music under his own name it was apparent that he was more at home in electroacoustic and noise music territory than in anything resembling pop.

Gilbert released a flood of material, starting in 1980. Together with co-conspirator Graham Lewis, he recorded four albums as Dome, their lo-fi music sounding like tape scrapings from Wire sessions, odd vocal exercises, frustration devices, aversion therapies.

A 12" as Cupol combined an almost pop rant on one side with an extended ethnic forgery noise field on the other. Credited to BC Gilbert & G Lewis, the album 3R4 contains two excellent noise ambient soundscapes with shorter tracks. Together with the single "Ends With The Sea", these formed the CD compilation 8 Time.

After seven releases in two years Gilbert showed no signs of slacking. The random noises that formed gallery installation MZUI stormed the charts (not!) in 1982. Gilbert then teamed with Lewis and Mute label boss Daniel Miller for Duet Emmo, who issued the excellent Or So It Seems and companion 12" in 1983. That same year he was in the band P'o, featured on this blog last June.

The two albums Gilbert released on Mute following this unorthodox period of music-making are likely more palatable. Commissioned by choreographer Michael Clark, "Do You Me? I Did", filled 30 minutes of the album "This Way", issued on Mute in August 1984. This is currently available on Austrian label Editions Mego, remastered and with new artwork. This piece is one of the absolute highlights of the Gilbert canon.

Conceived by Angela Conway, whose own musical career we have profiled, the dance "The Shivering Man" provided the title for the follow-up album. Released on vinyl by Mute in April 1987, the record is full of insistent pulses and fragmented instruments. One can hear guitar, bass, drums and vocals but their spectra are not used in conventional ways, nor in conventional structures. The album begins with "Angelfood", which goes through several distinct musical stages, as though replicating Gilbert's oeuvre in toto. It is one of his best pieces.

Following this, the title track sounds like cartoon characters slowly getting dragged under the earth to be buried alive. "Net in the Feather" welds bagpipes to a skipping CD, later to be jeered and whooped. "There Are" starts with something like Frippertronics until Gilbert's toneless voice begins a recitation. Then, unexpectedly, the machinic enters this organic realm. "Hommage" [sic] might be Throbbing Gristle while "Eline Cout II" sets the template for the solo AC Marias record: girl-next-door ambient vocals over insistent pulsing loop. Finally, "Epitaph For Henran Brenlar" evolves out of a dark shambles into something resembling a pop song. Graham Lewis appears half-way through and sounds great.

The Shivering Man has only been issued on CD as part of a limited three disk set in Japan. In the UK four of the seven tracks found their way to the compilation This Way To The Shivering Man. As that is also out of print, we are bringing you the record in full, restored to its original running order.

P.S. A video excerpt of "The Shivering Man", danced by Michael Clark, Julie Hood and Ian Longmuir, may be found on YouTube. Hood is also the dancer in the brilliant A.C. Marias video "One Of Our Girls Has Gone Missing".

-- Second Chameleon


The Shivering Man

A1 Angel Food
A2 The Shivering Man
A3 Net In The Feather
B1 There Are
B2 Hommage
B3 Eline Cout II
B4 Epitaph For Henran Brenlar

LP UK: Mute [STUMM 39] April 1987


  1. Nice blog andsome great posts. I've just added you to ASFM.

    All the best

  2. Thanks for the kind words, garychching. We've reciprocated the favour, adding Always Searching For Music to our list of blog faves. TSM readers should check it out; there's a half dozen Foxx-era Ultravox! shows that everyone should add to their collections.

  3. cnow77@londonunderground.ca15 April, 2010 02:13

    Fantastic blog. Where else can you find posts with Gilbert/Lewis and A.C. Marias. Thank you. I wonder if you've heard of a record called EAR | TRUMPET Bring On The Dirt. I had a copy of it on vinyl from many years ago. It was a record that came out in 1987 and Bruce Gilbert played guitar on it. It was really good and I would love to hear it again sometime. The lable that released it was Data terminal Records. Just hoping someone has heard of it. Your site seemed like you know of it. Keep up the excellent posts.

  4. Ah yes, I remember Ear Trumpet, with Steve Severin and someone from (or later in?) Buzzcocks, operating under obscure names. Unfortunately I don't think I ever bought it. Anyone?

  5. cnow77@londonunderground.ca15 April, 2010 03:38

    I just found it on discogs. I don't know why I didn't check that site out earlier.


    It's also posted on another blog, but the link has long expired.


    Looks like it's still pretty hard to find. Great album though. I'm glad to see I wasn't the only one that's heard it.


    1. Hi
      I actually bought bring on the dirt today or rather got it delivered today. Amazing album. Got it for 5quid for discogs. You may want to know the singer Neil m also went under the name moet the poet. His track appeared on a mortarhate records release called what why when etc. Here's a link https://youtu.be/hb129NaGxfs

  6. Thanks for such a well-written look back at Martha et al... those were great times in Toronto, and produced a lot of great music.
    Thanks for the chance to hear a few of these agaian after far too long....
    all the best,

  7. Great stuff here, thanks!
    Do you have the "8 Time" compilation CD available? Or are the things it includes already here on the site? The complicated discography confuses me...

  8. "8 Time" is available on Amazon as an MP3 download. The CD is available cheaply on the second-hand market. Recommended!

  9. Stumbled upon this, love every song and every letter. Thanks.

  10. oh man you are just great as those full album tracks were'nt available on the stumm uk cd from 1987 and they deserve a right feel and listening as are really high!

    thanksassnnnnnicebbbbblogggggggggggg !