Tuesday 12 December 2017

Book Review: Terry Burrows with Daniel Miller – 'Mute: A Visual Document (From 1978 – Tomorrow)'

'Mute: A Visual Document (From 1978 – Tomorrow)'

Mute records is quite simply one of the most important labels in music ever. Having been at the forefront of the electronic music innovation of the late 70s, they were instrumental at propelling it into the mainstream in the 1980s, continuing to diversify it in the 90s and in the new millennium have also found themselves as curators of some the most important catalogues in the genre.

We've had phenomenal live festivals such as 2011's Short Circuit. There has also been impressive collections including 'Mute Audio Documents', and numerous references in books and documentaries. But for the first time we have the story in an official capacity in the form of 'Mute: A Visual Document (From 1978 – Tomorrow)'.

This book written by label founder Daniel Miller (also of The Normal and Silicon Teens) along with respected author (and experimental electronic musician in his own right) Terry Burrows charts the rise of the label as a small vanity project, to a world wide phenomenon. Accompanied by a designer's wet dream of visuals including concepts and test pieces from some of the most iconic artwork in the label's vaults.

The book isn't ridiculously text heavy – it could very well become that with gleeful nerdy abandon – but it is instead anecdotal for the most part, almost like a documentary. Reading it you can hear the tracks playing and if you were around at the gigs and tours it mentions you'll probably be hit with happy memories. Where the information does get quite heavy, visuals of timelines, logos, artwork and photos break it up well so as not to bombard you. But otherwise it is an easy read that doesn't get overtly nerdy, but instead opens the doors on the rise, near fall, and continued success of one of music's most unique labels.

The book itself is a thing of beauty. Not only is the subject matter visually beautifully represented on the pages in full colour and great detail. But the embossed hard cover, stitched spine with 'Mute' proudly emblazoned on it, and the thick paper all make this feel like a work of art. Just as the Mute Synth and 'Audio Document' collections before it, this feels like a great quality and collectable item before you even get round to reading the text and looking at the art inside.

Any fan of electronic music will be familiar with Mute Records and the artists that have graced it over the years. In 'Mute: A Visual Document (From 1978 – Tomorrow)' you get not only a visual retrospective but a biography of the label itself, it's successes, its troubles and ultimately the passion of everyone involved in it. It has been a fascinating journey from one man's attempt to put a record out, to a globally recognised leader in electronic music, and long may it continue. Fans of the label, fans of the bands, fans of great design, and even anyone out there toying with the idea of getting into the music industry will find this a great read and a treasure trove of ideas.  

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