About three times a year Wire magazine includes a CD with their print issue. I got turned on to their “Wire Tapper” series several years ago; I’ve managed to collect most of them (but if you know anyone with #1-#3 let me know!) and they are uniformly excellent. The CD’s always play like a great mix tape from a friend knowledgeable about the underground….which I guess they are, actually.

On this page I will occasionally explore one of the CD’s. Here's one randomly selected from a few years ago:

Wire Tapper 42

Included with The Wire Issue #393 from November 2016.

Put the Needle on the Record:This CD featured three excellent tracks that include that distinct sound of a stereo needle on a vinyl record. Is this a hidden trend in modern music production only I have identified? Probably….not. In any case, first up is “Ada” by Stefano Pilia. The-run-out-groove-on-vinyl-where-someone-forgot-to-pick-up-the-needle sound sets the beat for some mellow Paris Texish ™ guitar being played on the front porch while someone else is banging away out in the shed. “Keppler [Edit]” by Cover also harnesses the sound of a needle (at least as the song starts) with odd electronically processed noises pieced together in a cool aural collage. Finally, we have “Willow Sketch” by Molnbär av John. He creates a great piece of hauntology using the needle on an old record sound, along with what sounds like some vintage mellow Hawaiian guitar and relaxed jazzy horn. 

You had me at “Horrific”: Maybe this song is a little ominous sounding at times, but “Horrific” by Giorgio Moroser is actually not horrific at all. Electronic music featuring some 80’s sounding keyboard over lots of static. And welcome, Georgio Moroser, to my “All Name Team.” 

One I explored further: I liked the mix on “5:34 [excerpt]” by Aluk Todolo. It’s hard and heavy rock, but I also hear some subtle elements of surf guitar at times on this song. And there’s a “mellow” interlude in the middle so you can catch your breath. It’s from their album “Voix” which you’ll find chock full of powerful and fairly relentless instrumental occult rock songs. Recommended…if you dare. And there is even more music to explore on their Bandcamp site. The band hails from Paris, France and, oh, and speaking of France…

Comment dit on “Lake”?:  Lake or lac, whether you prefer French or English, they’re both here.  “A Progressive Approach to the Lake” is a beautiful track by another group from France - Pointe Du Lac. It features echoing solo piano until some Vangelis-like synth joins in after a few minutes. In any language, it’s magnifique.

Here I am Floating: Likely this wasn’t Lumen Lab’s intention, but “Compa” sort of feels to me like it musically could be documenting a rocket ship journey. It starts with seemingly disparate rhythm patterns, dense with samples and fast beats (our takeoff), and then settles to some relative calm (as we reach outer space). But wait, there’s something wrong. It turns out that was just a short breather as the chaos returns, and then some. Are we returning to earth or breaking free from gravity? It’s an exciting trip either way.

Quiet Season: Emma Tricca gives us the simple pleasure of “Winter, My Dear” with its airy acoustic guitar, piano, sparse percussion and shy vocals. Gentle and beautiful like freshly fallen snow.

Four More to  Explore (All Electronic Edition):

-- “Raptor“ by Age Coin has some minimalist techno, dub step and UK garage elements. Probably a good late night choice.

-- “The Violent Sequence” from Worriedaboutsatan is of a piece with the Age Coin track; maybe a bit denser, but another great vibe.

-- “Blackness [Short Edit]” by Echo 106 is spacey dance music featuring a driving beat with odd and, at times, distorted electronics over it.

-- You may also enjoy “Stargaze” by Bambooman. It’s a catchy mid-tempo tune with slightly off-kilter steel drum sounds. Love the slow build of instruments.

Other important music information regarding the number 42:

- The name of the band Level 42 was apparently inspired by “the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything” from Douglas Adams’ “The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.” That answer is, of course, 42.

-- The soundtrack for the movie "The Summer of '42" was composed by Michel Legrand and includes the well-known main theme "The Summer Knows." I’m reasonably certain that neither the movie nor the music has anything to do with Hitchiker’s Guide.

-- "42" is one of the tracks on Coldplay's 2008 album “Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends.” Possibly a reference to Hitchiker’s Guide; possibly not.

-- "Channel 42" is the title of a song by deadmau5 (featuring Wolfgang Gartner) from the album “Album Title Goes Here.” As far as connections to Hitchiker’s…oh never mind.

-- The pride of Yuba City, California – the apparently-no-longer-together Anthem – have a real throat-shredder called "Forty-Two" as well. It’s so far down the musical spectrum from Michel Legrand as if it’s from a different galaxy.


Wire Tapper 35   

Included with The Wire issue 366 from August 2014.

Bad Seeds gone…bad?: I recently went to see a local theater company stage Nick Cave’s “And the Ass Saw the Angel.” The live background music for that show was a perfect threatening and foreboding soundtrack; the track “Holt, Jarmara” by God In Hackney would have fit perfectly into that setting. It is anchored by bowed double bass, threatening drumming, and repetitive chanted group vocals, and creates a tension that is never relieved. For further listening check out their album “Cave Moderne” which presents variations on the same theme.

One I explored further: The track included here by Quttinirpaaq (“Malvert”) sounds like the theme song for an amazing film noir. An ominous repetitive deep percussion and piano line, indecipherable but sinister vocals down in the mix, and apparently a colony of bats are released a couple times to add a little chaos.

Listening to the album this track comes from (“No Visitors”) reveals that “Malvert” is actually one of their more “mellow” tracks. While there are a few other songs in a similar vein, the rest of the album also includes lots of industrial psyche noise and feedback. I keep finding great bands from Austin, Texas like this one; a few more and I may need to relocate.

One I will definitely explore further: On first listen it sounded like some sort of alien broadcast. Figment of Imagination” by Coppe’ is a poppy experimental electronic song featuring unusual vocals and a really catchy beat. Intrigued I started clicking away and found her website which refers to her as "The Legendary Godmother of Japanese Electronica" and shows a ton of music she has released. For me this is one of those artists where I have to embarrassingly wonder how I’ve missed all this time…I should have discovered her years ago, but somehow did not. The good news for me is now I have an extensive Coppe’ catalogue waiting for me to dig into.

Best Saxophone, Hair and Beard combination: “Marens Mauw (Edit)” by Lars Greve nicely combines him playing slow, minimalist saxophone over a bed of nature sounds and static. The music is so good it is not overshadowed by his tremendous hairstyle and beard. An enthusiastic thumbs up for the style of both the music and the musician.

I don’t see how this could possibly work: “Briefcase Wormholes” by Cayos has chaotic electronic rhythms and noise overlaid with gentle electronic ambient sounds. The idea behind that mixture may not sound like it can result in anything good, but it does. I find it simultaneously energizing and calming; I can’t explain how it works, it just does.

Honorable mention, or four more to explore:  Included here is a small excerpt from a live improv entitled “A Field Perpetually at the Edge of Disorder” by John Edwards/Mark Sanders/John Tilbury. The trio features double bass, piano and drums/percussion and the players seem to both challenge and complement each other with fantastic results. “Nu Dat Deze Dag Voorbij Is” by Dakota Suite & Quentin Sirjacq is just a lovely piece of music made with what sounds like a handful of brass and woodwind instruments. On “Motoman” by Running you hear loops, including what sounds like a car engine starting and squealing car wheels, mixed with a funky bass buried a bit in the mix and a slow insistent rhythm track. Then there’s “Furtivo” by Delmore fx, with its lo-fi electronics (including a tone generator that sounds like it’s malfunctioning) plus weird repurposed dinner table noises and a defective cuckoo clock…at least that’s my best guess.

Other important music information regarding the number 35:

-- The 80/35 Music Festival has taken place annually for the last decade in Des Moines, Iowa. It’s named after two interstate highways which intersect that city, including I-35. Spoiler alert: I’m going to save myself some work and use this fact again when Wire Tapper 80 hits the newsstands. I’m guessing that will be around…2031…so stay tuned.

-- "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" was a hit song by Bob Dylan. Even if you don’t recognize the title, you probably know it from the memorable line ending each verse: “Everybody must get stoned.”

-- “Bit 35” is a song on the album “Tender Buttons” by Broadcast. Do you know the memorable lyric from this song? No, you don’t, because it’s an instrumental.

-- Finally, 35 is one of the ages Frank Sinatra recalls in the song “It Was a Very Good Year.” It sounds like he had some money and was apparently hanging with “blue-blooded girls” and riding in limousines at that age, as one does. As the saying goes “It’s Frank’s world, we just live in it.”


Wire Tapper 40

Included with The Wire issue 387 from May 2016.    

Very likely unintended theme: Down by the Docks. The Wire Tapper CD’s don’t have any stated theme, but for some reason the overall sound of this one largely conjures up feelings of being near the water at some seaport. Perhaps it was just some of the song title words rolling around in my brain: burning sea, black beaches, drowning, bride-ship and gulls. And thanks to artist Gary Seabrook for contributing his name to help bolster my weak nautical theme argument.

Things that make you go hmmmm…: That honor goes to the artist bhaavitaaH bhuutasthaH for most challenging band name. I did some extensive research to interpret the meaning, backwards and forwards, and determined…sorry, I’ve got nothing. Regardless, their song here (“Rückkopplung”), is awesome. It includes really cool percussion over static and what could be treated orchestral samples from an old movie; a nice juxtaposition of elements.

One(s) I explored further: That’s the point of compilation CD’s usually, right? Further exploring music you like? I often pick out one artist to track down from these comps for a more in-depth listen. Well, I cheated on this one, because I’ve picked three that really stood out:

-- There is an excerpt of the Driftmachine song “Dogov Godov” here, with its captivating layered electronic elements featuring circuit play and edgy percussion. The full version of the song can be found on “Colliding Contours”; a wonderful electronic album that includes dub and industrial elements spicing up the mix.  Recommended for late night listening in a darkened space.

-- The Oiseaux-Tempête song “Nec Mergitur” has sort of an angry jazz vibe driven by drums, guitar, and sax that gets louder and more violent as it progresses. It really grabbed me and led me to their album “Unworks & Rarities 2012-2015.” I was a little thrown as the opening track “Eclipse & sirocco” was a flowing, calming, uplifting piece of music I was not expecting. While I did find one other track (“Black as Midnight on a Moonless Night “) that had somewhat the same vibe as “Nec Mergitur,” there are other songs on different planes, including elements of ambient, post-rock, and spoken word. Lots of very interesting music that will be fun to explore further.

-- I was immediately captivated by Olga Wojciechowska’s “ I'm Never Not Thinking About You” with its beautiful plaintive violin; it’s one of those songs I never wanted to end. It’s featured on her album “Maps and Mazes” which is full of amazing compositions that you need to submerge yourself into. And now I’m never not thinking about you, Olga.

Most familiar face: Supersilent always brings the quality and their track here, “13.3”, is no exception. This has lots of interesting noises and arrhythmic beats collaged together for your listening pleasure. Unsurprisingly, at this point in their history they also stay consistent with their song titling as this fits right in with their catalogue.

From the name alone I thought it would sound like Kraftwerk: The title “Aerodynamics Pt 2” by Morten Poulsen got the edge here over Driftmachine, but neither really hits the same autobahn of our German friends. Poulsen drives a dirty industrial machine on his track, with the second half sounding almost like reverse of first half…sort of an aural palindrome.

Should I break out the eyeballs and top hats?: With the Snickers track “See You, Owczarek” we tune into an alien frequency that includes chanted vocals and distorted electronics. Then about half way through someone changes the station to a background that sounds more like distorted guitar. If you told me this was The Residents playing around, I would believe it.

Honorable mentions, or Four More to Explore: If your time is limited, check out My Disco “1991”, Susanna “Burning Sea”, Sparkle In Grey “Minka Minka”, and Roger Döring/Konrad Korabiewski “Hof”.

Other important music information regarding the number 40:

-- "40” is the title of a song on U2's “War” album. The lyrics are based on Psalm 40 which includes the line “…And he hath put a new song in my mouth…,” foretelling the arrival of Bono thousands of years before he was born.

-- On a less reverent note, the song "40oz. to Freedom" by Sublime is about malt liquor and some more base concerns than what U2 usually references as subject matter.

-- And finally, in Russia, some people believe that the ghost of a dead person lingers for forty days at the location of their death. The band Spoon has a song “The Ghost of You Lingers.” Spoon is not from Russia; they hail from Austin, Texas, which is nowhere near Russia. Creepy, huh?