Wire reaped rich creative rewards in the 2010s by revisiting and reinventing their past. On 2013's Change Becomes Us, the band gave a batch of songs from 1979 and 1980 the studio treatment with results that balanced their art-punk heyday and their more contemplative 21st century sound brilliantly. Wire don't look back quite as far on the mini-album Nocturnal Koreans, but their (re)inventive spirit serves them well once again. They developed these songs while working on 2015's Wire, setting them aside to add more elaborate sonics, or as the band put it, "studio trickery." Sometimes this trickery is subtle: "Nocturnal Koreans" takes Wire's whispery intensity in a slightly lusher direction, serving as a bridge between that album and more elaborate tracks like "Internal Exile," which incorporates lap steel and trumpet -- two instruments not usually associated with the band's palette -- into an anthem of futility that imbues Wire's 2010s malaise with a more organic, affecting feel. While Nocturnal Koreans may be more embellished, there's no filler within its 26 minutes. Interestingly, it's also more immediate than its more straightforward predecessor. Wire's songs were so cohesive that they took several listens to penetrate fully, but hearing the band widen its sounds and moods -- and subvert expectations -- offers instant gratification. The jabbing riffs on "Numbered"'s verses (as well as lyrics like "You think I'm a number/Still willing to rhumba") are classic Wire, and are soon overtaken by a galloping Krautrock beat and droning electronics. Meanwhile, "Still"'s doubled drums and major chords give it a swagger that nevertheless feels of a piece with the band's incisive, questioning attitude. Nocturnal Koreans also finds Wire expressing that attitude with more emotional range than they have in a while, whether on the haunting "Forward Position," where Colin Newman intones "I am black box, I remember/Every promise that you broke," or on the surreal "Fishes Bones," where Graham Lewis' declamatory vocals lead the rest of the band into increasingly psychedelic territory. Even if Nocturnal Koreans' sound isn't always textbook Wire, its imagery and wit most certainly are, making the album much more than the collection of leftovers its origins might have suggested. ~ Heather Phares
Spin - "NOCTURNAL KOREANS, the band's 15th album, forgoes power for stillness, and manages the unprecedented: It's the best thing they've done in 14 years."
Pitchfork (Website) - "[T]he atypical tools employed here (trumpet, lap-steel guitar) are treated less as feature attractions than soluble materials to be mutated and absorbed into the band's soundstream..."
Clash (magazine) - "NOCTURNAL KOREANS is the latest instalment in what has been Wire's longest uninterrupted stint as a band, and finds the group revisiting the slickly-executed style and sound that characterised the very final years of their 1980s period..."