MUTE: A VISUAL DOCUMENT, FROM 1978 – TOMORROW
By Terry Burrows and Daniel Miller (Thomas & Hudson; 320pp; $45)
If you’ve listened to punk, post-punk, and electronic music at any time during the past 40 years, it’s likely one of your favorite albums was released by Mute records. Launched in 1978 by Daniel Miller (aka The Normal) as a vehicle to release the single “Warm Leatherette,” the label went on to host some of the most innovative and influential artists of the past four decades—Depeche Mode, Erasure, Fad Gadget, Moby, Can, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Laibach and Einstürzende Neubauten, among them.
As you would expect, Mute: A Visual Document provides an overview of the label from the founder’s point of view. Yet, what makes this book so fascinating is that the story is told, in large part, through well-curated imagery: Thousands of B&W and color images of album graphics, publicity shots, posters and other ephemera, much of it previously unpublished, is carefully organized and displayed. It’s as if you are holding the catalog of an imaginary gallery exhibition for an art movement that is familiar, yet elusive.
The book is meticulously assembled and interesting on its own, right down to the stitched binding that helps it lay flat when open. More than just an interesting read, Mute: A Visual Document is an essential experience for anyone into art, design, and creative music.
By Noah Wall (grotesquetablesii.com; $20)
In our August 2017 issue, we reviewed the cleverly subversive deck of cards called Grotesques Tables II, the creation of composer Noah Wall who devised a suitable anagram from each of Eno/Schmidt’s Oblique Strategies. This clever concept (which got the attention of Eno, himself, and was given his blessing) inspired a number of people to create works of art, across many disciplines, based on individual cards. As we mentioned in the review, Wall had more up his sleeve; a new card-based project was in the works.
For his latest deck, Scores, Wall devised a new set of anagrams from the original Oblique Strategies, this time leaving out letters corresponding to musical notes from A to G. The first card I pulled from the deck had “C C E C” above the words “In a volt not a unit”—surprisingly appropriate since I was sitting next to my modular synth at the time.
Of course, one can view each card as a row of pitch-names followed by a short phrase, but that is just one approach. It will be interesting to see how Scores, like its predecessor Grotesque Tables II, inspires musicians and non-musicians alike to reexamine their artistic practice.