Review: Two Albums from Graham Lewis

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Edvard Graham Lewis has appeared in a variety of guises since his first days with Wire. As one half of Dome, he erected a tent inside a recording studio. As one-third of Duet Emmo, he voiced the most achingly beautiful single ever written. As four-quarters of He Said, Lewis reimagined pop as an intellectual pursuit. The list of fractions and factions takes us through P’o, 27#11, Halo, Hox, Ocsid – a fluid combination of characters, both musical and typographic, dissolving and reforming. The unifying thread is a shifting tension between the lyrical and experimental; music that sometimes approaches commercial pop but draws away just in time. You can’t always dance to it, but you’ll have fun trying.

ALLUNDER-350Two albums have just been released under Lewis’ own name by Editions Mego, but that doesn’t make them any more straight-forward. All Under starts with a film score and installation piece of the same title: the former seemingly a series of intercepted radio signals, processed into a sequence of overlapping tonal waves; the latter a strikingly delicate and haunting drone set against more visceral electronics. Lewis acts as narrator on “The Eel Wheeled,” a short story somewhere between Kafka and Conrad, set in the dystopia that is the Homeland. “No Show Godot” is a slow-burning, restrained conclusion. With the most sparing manipulation of electrical current, Lewis has taken large strides along the experimental path that he first explored in the early 1980s, and All Under is an exemplary transmission from his Uppsala base.

ALLOVER-350The companion album, All Over, serves up a dozen tracks that walk on the knife-edge between pop and experimentalism. “Straight into the Corner” could easily fit into the Wire/Wir canon, with an easy-going sensibility, but it is a singular example – other tracks might appropriate familiar conventions, but only so that they can be deconstructed and repurposed. This is unmistakably a Lewis album, with his signature wordplay and playful subversion. The stand-out track, “We’ve Lost Your Mind,” is the closest thing to a single, but in a fairer world “Passport to International Travel” would be all over the radio. Take that, white van man.

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