Various Artists, Wired: Music Futurists


By Sarah Zupko

PopMatters Editor & Publisher

In this era of so-called music futurism, it may be something of a revelation to discover that much of the touted “forward-thinking music” has really been around in one form or another for at least 40 years. House and speed garage clearly owe a debt to 80s hip-hop and 70s disco, but the more complex, and often more interesting, forms of electronic music owe their livelihood to modern classical music, experimental jazz, and the early sonic experiments of Brian Eno, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, and the Silver Apples.

Attempting to document the work of sonic pioneers who were far ahead of their time, Wired: Music Futurists covers broad, and occasionally surprising, ground, while even offering something of a primer on the deep roots of modern electronica and lounge music. Latin swing legend Esquivel kicks things off with a kitschy, but terribly infectious, version of lyric tenor favorite “Grenada.” From this work, it’s easy to see Esquivel as one of the early space age music bachelor pad guys.

Meanwhile, Sun Ra’s music—represented here by “Plutonian Nights”—is an early precursor to both fusion and hip-hop. Today’s leading electronic artists like Orbital and The Orb wouldn’t be anywhere without Steve Reich’s hypnotic, minimalist, rhythmic patterns (“Pulse”). And then there’s Can, whose Krautrock has been so massively influential on fellow musicians, it’s tempting to label them the founders of techno and synth-pop. Sonic Youth, Beck, and DJ Spooky represent more recent work, but it’s the early pieces that really make this disc a must-own. Only one quibble—where are Kraftwerk and Philip Glass? Those would have been better choices than Devo.

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