Key Tracks: “Last Mistress,” “Black”
Sonic Youth fans like myself were heartbroken by their relatively unexpected 2011 break-up. But most fans expected to see the members in other projects soon enough. And two years later, we’ve already got three projects. Lee Ranaldo released his first proper solo album in 2012, an inconsistent but largely great album. Thurston Moore’s new, energetic band Chelsea Light Moving released their debut earlier this year (and it stands as one of my favorite albums of the year), and now Kim Gordon’s new duo have released their debut LP. Sonic Youth fans may have expected Gordon’s new project to be the most experimental and ambitious of all the immediate post-Youth groups, and it certainly is. Body/Head, also featuring Bill Nace, is a minimalistic guitar duo, playing long, crunchy drones, with occasional lumbering lyrics from Gordon. To put it simply, Body/Head sounds a little like some of Sonic Youth’s earliest records, slowed down a lot.
“Coming Apart” is a double album, coming in at roughly 68 minutes (but with only 10 songs). There is no way to tell when the album one switches to album two, but the album does have a building experimentation. That is, it tends to get more experimental as it goes along. “Abstract” starts the album off with a vocal-heavy song, and “Last Mistress” serves as one of the most droning tracks on the album. But it only gets more minimalistic as it goes on. Songs often lack beats, sometimes lack rhythms, and have long instrumental sections. And the last two songs, “Black” and “Frontal,” combine for a total of 30 minutes. “Black” is a dissonant, building odyssey with violent lyrics that channel Patti Smith’s “Land” portion of her album “Horses.” Gordon’s voice largely stays monotone throughout the album, and it is the most effective on “Black,” a song that’s too menacing to ignore.
The album is punishingly minimalistic, one that starts off making boldly ambitious claims and slowly grows even more so, until the listener is suddenly engulfed in a seventeen minute finale. It certainly won’t appeal to everyone, but those interested probably already know what they’re going into, with Kim Gordon involved. The duo works with both song structures and the total absence of them, drawing out notes as Gordon draws out words. Minimalism can often feel pointless, but “Coming Apart” never does. “Coming Apart” has poetry, it has meaning, and it has subtexts. It’s dark and heavy, but there’s beauty amidst the mess.
If you like this, try: “Drifters / Love is the Devil” by Dirty Beaches. It’s a little less noisy and has wider influences, but it’s another double album that only gets more experimental as it goes on.
-By Andrew McNally