A sequence of pleasure…
It’s perhaps a little disconcerting to realise that electronic outfit Nature Of Wires originally came together in 1986 and continued on with founder-members Gary Watts (synths & programming) and Andrew Stirling-Brown (vocals) up to 1993, when vocalist Sarah Bouchier (aka Lady B) joined the outfit. But the following year the band went on hiatus – something which would last more than 20 years!
For a band whose origins reach so far back, it might be expected that their fire has long gone out. But both Watts and Stirling-Brown have managed to keep Nature Of Wires fresh and dynamic, both in their recorded endeavours as well as their live outings.
On their return in 2015, Nature of Wires began a collaboration with US-based singer CountessM (which resulted in 2016’s Cyber Rendezvous album). Tim Powell-Tuck also joined the revitalised outfit on drums. Meanwhile in 2019, Sarah Bouchier resumed vocal duties for a new EP titled Reborn and she also became part of Nature Of Wire’s live ensemble.
Outside of their own work, Nature Of Wires have also established themselves as the go-to outfit for remix duties. Some of their more notable remixes include work by Massive Ego, Leaether Strip, Sigue Sigue Sputnik Electronic, !distain, Precog, Advance, Freakangel, Machine Rox and Vogon Poetry.
Modus is a curious album which includes songs penned by the band between 1986 and 1993, but each given a workover to give them a contemporary flourish. “We want to look back on this album in 20 years time and be satisfied that it is as good as possible” suggests Gary Watts. As a result, they’ve employed some talented producers to work on the project, including Steve Whitfield (The Cure, The Mission, Shed Seven, Terrorvision, Jah Wobble, Promenade Cinema, Zeitgeist Zero) and Mike Marsh (Calvin Harris, OMD, Human League, Chemical Brothers, Moby, Shamen, Massive Attack, Erasure, 808 State, The Prodigy, Depeche Mode).
Unsurprisingly, the album boasts a polished modern sound, a world away from what you might expect from older compositions. But while Nature Of Wires may take some inspiration from that classic 1980s synth-pop era, but its also married with a distinct flavour of club anthems.
The album starts off in a confident position with ‘Feel The Hunger’, a slow-burning number with subtle but relentless rhythms. There’s an evocative air to the composition via the narrative-led lyrics, here given some suitable whack care of Andrew Stirling-Brown’s not inconsiderable vocal chops. Despite the tune’s obvious themes of youthful rebellion (“You hunger for the night life/You long to dance”) it never comes across as a pastiche. The busy layered synths deliver a big, impressive sound and it’s tough to restrain the urge to dance along.
‘Time is Come’, meanwhile, steps up a gear for a more anthemic outing. It’s something that’s keep going on ‘Negative Resolutions’, whose burbling synth rhythms keep a crisp pace without falling into the often plodding ‘thump-thump’ territory that a lot of lesser talents offer up as club bangers.
Things turn a little more reflective on ‘Seagull’, a melodic workout that offers a more wistful side to Nature Of Wires (“Like a feather on a seagull”). The themes of freedom and space are enhanced by some suitable bird calls and sea sounds.
This lighter touch is echoed on the pastel tones of ‘Every Single Sun’, which acts as an anthem to positivity (“Every single sun is a gift from God”), a sentiment that’s also evident on the likes of ‘Negative Resolutions’.
There’s a more radical shift on the percussive tones employed for ‘Harry’s House’, whose clubby rhythms and lyrical allusions to Ecstasy put its origins firmly in the 1990s. It’s also a song that’s pretty much a template for effective compositions (“Stick to the rhythm/Stick to the beat”).
Elsewhere, the spacious beats of ‘Madame Serena’ offer up one of the album’s finest moments. Here, an earthy synth rhythm drives things along while the vocals employ some effective choral highs. There’s so much going on beneath this composition that new treats reveal themselves on repeat spins (such as the subtle synth melody that drops in and out).
Modus closes out with the excellent ‘First Light’, which manages to be the perfect distillation of the Nature Of Wires sound. Here, sweeping synths and solid percussion come together in a polished production.
The album also features a generous selection of remixed tracks (including contributions from the likes of Room 1985, The Cowls and ATOMZERO), which gives some impressive work in itself. “We originally envisioned it as not just a collection of remixes” suggests Stirling-Brown, “but as a deliberate companion or twin to Modus“. The ‘Negative Resolutions (Glass Half Full Remix by CYFERDYNE)’ pushes the dance-floor aesthetics to the end of the dial with a beefy thumping workout. ‘Harry’s House (Klammer Remix)’ lends some distinctly New Order flavours to the original. But one of the remix album’s standout moments is the Mesh remix of ‘First Light’ – a muscular powerhouse of a tune that delivers a bassy, almost physical impact.
Modus is perhaps a good example of why Nature Of Wires are held in such high regard in the electronic music community. As an album, it delivers an effective collection of powerful tunes which, as Watts suggests, offers “Our final farewell to our younger years” while also clearing the path for the music of the future.
Modus is out now on the Analogue Trash label.
Nature of Wires photo by Russ Dallen.
Nature of Wires have several live dates scheduled:
5th Oct Yerrr Bar – Manchester
12th Oct Cologne, Germany – Wachsfabrik (with Bandmachine)
8th Nov Scruffy Murphy’s – Birmingham (with Vieon, Among the Echoes & Vain Machine)
9th Nov Beat:Cancer Festival 2.0 – Electrowerkz, London
12th Jan The Slade Rooms – Wolverhampton (with Among the Echoes & Toyah)
25th April Artefaktor Live 4 – Electrowerkz, London
2nd May Artefaktor Live 4 – Berlin
9th May Artefaktor Live 4 – Copenhagen