English post-punk veterans Wire have surfaced yet again with Nocturnal Koreans, the latest in their deeply extensive array of well-versed and dynamic art punk as old as the punk rock movement itself. The ensemble of gifted musicians keep up with their continual forward momentum on this album, in order to redefine themselves, which after 40 years of constant transformation through innovating new sounds can prove to be a daunting task. Despite this, the attributes that give Wire the knack to cut through a superficial wave of revived psychedelia to showcase that their ambitions as creators have not faltered.
The opening tracks showcase some beautiful, vintage guitar tones with just enough fuzz, and the waltz beat on "Internal Exile" provides a witty backing for Newman's vocal performance in which he has existential tangents as the world moves on around him oblivious to the doom he senses in the air. The droning string sections follow suit in this transcendent song, as little niches within all of the instruments blend into a mellow mix and culminate in a wall of sound. There's an eerie, postmodern feel to the haunting moments of discordance so heavily embellished with a more than full sound.
"Dead Weight" provides a combination of breathy shoegaze vocals and blurry low-end drones to provide the foundation for a track that's a total echo chamber of tube amps humming a fog. "Forward Position" has a very Pink Floyd-esque sense of brooding within it, as sweeping melodies bleed into one another over Newman's copious scrutiny of human tendency in a way that sounds paranoid and desperate, but is captured beautifully. It's a moment in the album that feels heavily impending and threatening in all of its entrancing ambiguity.
"Numbered" is a sharp battle cry in response to the previous track, providing the most upbeat moments and sharp, blaring guitar tracks. This song pummels with a heavy rhythm, and is a frantic and dissonant revolt against the sea of noise that is part of the human experience in a world increasingly consumed by demands to fall into order and engage in things devoid of meaning.
"Still" makes a triumphant return to roots, with a chunky guitar that sounds like something off of Pink Flag. But Newman's presence reinvigorates that vibe with a murky and more melodic way of thinking that comes with his musical sophistication. "Pilgrim Trade" is a track which is hellbent on pointing out the self-consuming nature of people and shouting out against it. It's a moment in which Newman pleads for a moment of true isolation, and it's a track that shows the way that someone begs for some way to be absolved of some kind of depravity.
In true Wire fashion, the album ends with a bizarre and quirky off-the-wall track that's truly hard to grasp. With a catchy beat, hooky guitars that eventually transcend into noisy experimentation, a weird, desperate spoken word monologue in which lines cut each other off. It shows that there's still ways to be weird in new ways within the genre of art punk, which touts itself on weirdness to begin with.
Nocturnal Koreans provides a heavy abstraction in sound for Wire, as the band delves into a hazy take on postmodern pallets of disorientation and search for meaning in an increasingly distorted reality. Backed by echo chambers of strings that are charming in one moment and harrowing in the next, and an array of hooky, humming guitars, Wire have reinvigorated their sound into something that is incredibly crisp, focused, and disciplined. There are many moments of fear, peril, and disorientation throughout the experience of the record that shine through in the sense of distance the musicians embody in these works. It's a short LP, but each track has a level of devotion within it that the eight tracks are all it takes to make Nocturnal Koreans a lively, moving, and heavy experience when listened through.