07 April 2010
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