The Wire

The world's greatest print and online music magazine. Independent since 1982


Invisible Jukebox – live! This year at Ableton Loop

The Wire’s longrunning monthly feature takes to the road for the first time

For the very first time The Wire will be taking its longrunning Invisible Jukebox feature out on the road to a live audience. Three artists are set to take the Jukebox test, where we play records which they are asked to comment on without knowing what they are, during Ableton’s Loop weekend at Berlin’s Funkhaus studio complex this November.

The Invisible Jukebox has been a monthly feature in The Wire since December 1991, where every month we select an artist or group, and sit down with them to listen to a specially selected collection of tracks, which they are then invited to identify and discuss in relation to their own work. The format echoes the classic jazz magazine interview format of the blindfold test. The legendary jazz critic Leonard Feather started the feature, entitled The Jazzman As Critic: The Blindfold Test, for Metronome in 1946, and went on to conduct dozens of tests with the giants of jazz for magazines such as Down Beat and Playboy.

Artists who have sat the Invisible Jukebox over the years include Robert Wyatt, Lou Reed, Derrick May and Tony Allen, while recent participants include Islam Chipsy, Beatrice Dillon and Ilan Volkov. Invisible Jukeboxes in the past have seen Future Sound Of London skipping through the CD they were played searching for sampling material, and Lemmy of Motorhead insisting we stop playing him High Rise and Massacre (but praising ZZ Top and Little Richard). In 1997, The Wire published Invisible Jukebox, an anthology collecting a number of the most memorable interviews. More recently, Wire reader Christopher Thompson started a Tumblr which attempts to compile the playlists of every Invisible Jukebox from the very first installment onwards.

The live editions of Invisible Jukebox will take place at Ableton Loop, a three day summit of discussions, performances, workshops and more investigating technology and music-making, with scores of participants including Moritz von Oswald, Morton Subotnik, Anna Meredith and Elysia Crampton. Taking the test in front of a live studio audience, under the expert supervision of a Wire contributor, will be Gudrun Gut, with others to be confirmed. The event takes place from 4–6 November at Berlin’s Funkhaus, the purpose-built broadcasting complex of the old East Germany. More information on Loop can be found here.