During Wire's hiatus in the early '80s, Bruce Gilbert and Graham Lewis pursued numerous projects together. Mzui grew out of the pair's more experimental endeavors as Cupol and Dome, which favored minimalist industrial ambience forged from drones, sparse mechanical rhythms, and varieties of austere noise. Just as Gilbert and Lewis' Dome projects explored the recording studio's potential as a performance space and their live appearances became artistic happenings, Mzui was a further manifestation of their interest in experimentation and the blending of art forms. The album was originally an audio-visual installation project developed over three weeks in 1981 with graphic artist Russell Mills at London's Waterloo Gallery (a former meat-packing warehouse) with elements fashioned from materials and objects found in and around the gallery. Mzui focused on the artistic process, itself, not the end product. Gilbert, Lewis, and Mills changed the components of the installation on an almost daily basis and worked with new materials as they were found and incorporated. Most importantly, Mzui deconstructed the traditionally fixed positions of artist and audience, as gallery visitors were encouraged to interact with and modify the installation's varied components. Microphones captured the resulting sounds, which were recorded and amplified. Originally released on vinyl in 1982, the Mzui album features two 20-minute pieces that provide a sampling of the proceedings and an aural map of the gallery's shifting interior landscape. Track one is a fragmented collage of abrasive metallic bursts, rumblings, clanging, and even sawing, which coalesce into an eerie, whistling finale. The second piece is relatively seamless, building from what sounds like a manic fairground organ into a dark, threatening ambience with otherworldly choral elements and concluding with the looped voice of Marcel Duchamp. The missing link between early Cluster and Aphex Twin, Mzui is a challenging but engrossing aural experience.
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AllMusic Review by Wilson Neate