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Archive Portal: Biba Kopf's Round Up The Usual Suspects

January 2015

Biba Kopf guides us through some of his Round Up The Usual Suspects columns from the 1980s, in which industrial culture's most wanted were tagged and bagged

In this new series of online posts, Wire staff and contributors will be shining a light into some of the more obscure corners of The Wire's back issues archive, beginning with Biba Kopf guiding us through some of his Round Up The Usual Suspects columns from the 1980s.

The Wire 26 (April 1986)
Round Up The Usual Suspects? Repeat Offenders is closer to the mark. Published in The Wire 26 (April 1986), the first of 35 columns took the distorting lens of Jacques Attali’s Noise: A Political Economy Of Music to look at two companion albums by Die Tödliche Doris; a film about Einstürzende Neubauten in Japan; the Decoder film soundtrack: and more. Die Tödliche Doris reappear in the final Round Up (issue 76, June 1990) and a good few others in between. Neubauten were also regulars, alongside Coil, Foetus, Swans, Diamanda Galàs, Lydia Lunch and more. Deep immersion felt like the only way to get to heart of what all these people were doing. 30 years on I’m still trying to claw my way to the surface. Once in a while I’d trip over a book or a text that served as a foot up. But with hindsight Attali’s Noise offered very poor support.

The Wire 37 (April 1987)
The column’s opening phrase “born never asked” is lifted from a Laurie Anderson title. Its sentiment felt far more appropriate to the roaring complaint of early Swans, whose 1983 debut album Filth was remastered and reissued on vinyl by Swans founder Michael Gira on his Young God label in winter 2014. Here the focus is on his and Swans partner Jarboe’s parallel solo side projects, both called World Of Skin.

The Wire 43 (September 1987)
A line cut from Paul Virilio’s Speed And Politics (published in Semiotext(e)'s Foreign Agents series of pocketbooks introducing new virulent strains of European philosophy) fuels this lightning tour of glasnost-era dissenting musics coming out of the Soviet Union, featuring former underground journalist Art Troitsky as guide. In October 2014, Art dropped by The Wire office, reporting that he and his family had fled Russia for a new life in Estonia. Soviet totalitarianism he could deal with; the fear factor generated inside Putin’s nationalist Russia is something else altogether.

The Wire 49 (March 1988)
Industrial culture is far from being the pranksters’ paradise depicted in this playoff between Adam Parfrey’s Apocalypse Culture anthology of writings, and Re/Search’s picture book celebration of malicious mischief makers called Pranks!. The Charles Baudelaire quote concluding the piece goes: “Such erratic pranks are not without danger and one often has to pay dearly for them. But what is an an eternity of damnation compared to an infinity of pleasure in a single second.” That infinity of pleasure is scant compensation for the unremitting grimness since caused in the name of industrial music after it had commodified itself into just another outsider genre option.

The Wire 60 (February 1989)
How to get from Osip Mandelstam to The Grateful Dead without screaming “NO!”? 1989 wasn’t a great year for The Grateful Dead. It was a Henry Kaiser record riffing on two of the group’s most rewarding jamming tracks, “Dark Star” and “The Other One”, that snuck them into this column. The following year was much better for them, as the recently released 23 live CD box set Spring 1990 (The Other One) attests.

The Wire 70/71 (New Year 1990)
For this double issue the magazine’s columnists were asked to look back at the 1980s. Scott Walker’s Climate Of Hunter (1983) and Julia Kristeva’s book Powers Of Horror: An Essay On Abjection (1984) are the guiding spirits here; otherwise it’s the usual suspects rounded up all over again.

Every issue of The Wire can be read online as part of the magazine's digital archive – that's more than 370 issues and 30,000 pages of experimental music history going back more than three decades. Full access to archive is available exclusively to all the magazine's subscribers. For more information click here

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