After the breakup of Wire in 1980, infamously, though intriguingly, chronicled on the album Document and Eyewitness, the members of the four-piece embarked on various projects. Colin Newman released A-Z later that year and it has been said that many of the songs on the record were intended for a Wire album and it can be readily understood why as it has many elements that seemed a progression of where the band had been headed with its recent recordings.
Bruce Gilbert and Graham Lewis, however, took the opportunity to reenter the studio just a few days after Wire's last concert to develop a project called Dome. Working quickly, the duo came up with ten pieces that largely took the form of pre-existing material intended for Wire and then added new electronic experiments intertwined with guitar, bass percussion and vocals. Whereas Newman, who always a bit more of a songwriter's touch, also did some experimenting on his record, while also mainly relying on relatively straightforward song structures, Lewis and Gilbert tended far more to abstraction, albeit in a compelling and mesmerizing way.
The first album did feature several vocal-infused pieces, including the opening "Cancel Your Order," the hypnotic "Cruel When Complete," with haunting vocals by "A.M.C.," that is, Angela Conway, who also received songwriting credit, and the most straight-ahead song on the disc, "Rolling Upon My Day," with its simple, but appealing guitar line.
Otherwise, there are plenty of weird and wonderful electronic sounds and noises on the rest of the album, which was recorded over three days in mid-March and the first of April 1980.
The duo quickly returned to work in August to record seven tracks that comprised the second album and here abstraction reigned supreme and the material was even stranger, including the two-part centerpiece, "The Red Tent 1 & 2", in which Lewis recorded his vocals while lying down in a tent; "Breathsteps;" "Ritual View" and the remarkable closer, "Keep It." Unlike the first record, which had its in-development Wire leftovers, this album was built largely on its own sense of sonic (mis)adventure, though "Ritual View" was a reworked Wire track that wasn't released, however, until 1996's Turns and Strokes.
For those more attuned to the song forms found in early Wire, Newman's record is, by far, the easier on the ears, though, again, it has moments of experimental adventure that he would expand upon in subsequent solo efforts like the instrumental-dominated 1981 release Provisionally Entitled The Singing Fish.
Those who noticed, however, that there was always some space in Wire's first three albums for electronic textures and rhythms that leaned toward the so-called "avant garde" or "art music," Gilbert and Lewis's work on the first Dome albums showed that they were more than ready to enlarge their interest in texture and sound. While the first album, in particular, leavened the experiments with some familiar song structures, Dome 2 took the adventures much further. For those interested in the exploration of sound in a minimalist and low-tech fashion, it can be quite rewarding.
Someday, the Dome 3 & 4 disc will be highlighted as Lewis and Gilbert continued their partnership further into the 1980s and before Wire regrouped to make a very different kind of music in the latter half of that decade.
Dome 1 (1980)
1. Cancel Your Order
2. Cruel When Complete
3. And Then . . .
4. Here We Go
5. Rolling Upon My wWay
6. Say Again
Dome 2 (1981)
1. The Red Tent 1 & 2
2. Long Lost Life
4. Reading Prof. B
5. Ritual View
6. Twist Up
7. Keep It