Bruce Gilbert

The Haring

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Bruce Gilbert has worn many different creative hats. Although he's best known as a guitarist with Wire, other projects have included collaborative recordings and museum installations with Graham Lewis, albums of solo electronica, and performances as the infamous DJ Beekeeper. Despite the disparate nature of these projects, Gilbert's work consistently involves experimentation, playfulness, and noise. The Haring is no exception. Defying simple genre categorization, the 27-minute title track is a fragmented collage of words and sounds: field recordings of individuals, voices taped from television and radio, and the voice of Gilbert himself are interspersed with noises of largely indeterminable origin. "The Haring" appears chaotic but recurring motifs give it a degree of structure and even a sense of rhythm. A looped menacing noise serves as punctuation between the spoken parts, many of which feature Gilbert reading snippets of prose -- something that establishes further narrative continuity. Amid the fragmented texture, there is one substantial segment composed of intermingled conversations, recalling language-based experiments like Glenn Gould's The Idea of North. But "The Haring" never pretends to be high art. Like much of the artist's work, it incorporates elements that undermine its own seriousness: for instance, a repeating section of the weather forecast, Gilbert reading an overdraft notice from his bank, and everything-must-go sales patter taped in a London store. The Haring also features "Children." Originally released in 1983, this comprises monologues in which the artist's parents recount disturbing childhood memories, framed by camp-horror organ music. His mother tells a bizarre anecdote about a routine trip to the chip shop leading to a sinister encounter with a dog that was actually a man, or perhaps vice versa. On this release, Gilbert transforms elements of the everyday into a jarring, quirky soundscape. To fans it's a fascinating document, to others it will be utterly unlistenable.