Body / Head: Coming Apart
I’ll try to talk about this record without going into some sort of sentimental Sonic Youth meltdown.
I was nervous about this Coming Apart. The hype was intense. And I treated it with great scepticism at first, almost like I didn’t want to believe it could be decent. And yet I listened to Coming Apart twice in a row today. Not because I felt like I had too so I could write about it, but because it’s actually quite good. Oh yes, it’s a challenge and it’s unlikely that you’re going to succumb to its charms on the first listen. Coming Apart is too sparse and aimless for any of that. But like all truly great music persistence is key.
Kim Gordon and Bill Nace serenade each other through improvised guitar work. They complement each other beautifully, one ratcheting up murky soundscapes while the other plays snaking melodies that create a misty atmosphere that’s difficult to see through, weightless and floating around all stoned and beautiful. The fact the guitars were recorded analogue style – Kim comes out one speaker while Bill haunts the other – adds to the disorienting nature of proceedings. When someone stops doodling, the audio world suddenly falls lopsided and for a second you’ll wonder if your headphones/speakers are on the fritz. I love that about Coming Apart, that it’s so human sounding and raw. There’s a lot of similarities between this and Sonic Youth’s SYR releases (dammit, how can you NOT reference that band?). Partly in the (seemingly) unedited and live sound but more so in the aimless guitar noodling, the lack of resolution and if that’s not your cup o’ tea than I suggest you look elsewhere for kicks. But me, I love this sort of stuff.
The most striking thing about Coming Apart is Kim’s vocals, in particular the honesty of her lyrics. She whispers, croons, scowls, yelps, yells and even barks about mistresses, actresses, murderesses and girls pissing like dogs to mark their territory. It’s nothing new for Gordon to sing about the Femme Fatale but this time her lead characters aren’t using their sexual prowess to fuck over white, male, corporate America or being subjected to the clammy gaze of a lascivious male audience. This time her female characters are sinister, predatory, praying mantis-like and conniving. I’m amazed that she’s allowed her personal life to shine through like this, but to be honest it’s fucking refreshing and she sounds more confronting and powerful than she has in years.
Despite Gordon’s abrasive (at times) vocal performance, Coming Apart is a very dreamy experience. It’s a complex maze to get lost in, largely because it demands your attention. there’s no dipping into and out of this record. You’re either in it for the long haul or you’re not. People with short attention spans should move the back of the line. Everyone else, have some patience and enjoy.
Posted in Bill Nace, Body/Head, Experimental, Experimental Rock, Kim Gordon, Releases 2013, Sonic Youth
Tagged Bill Nace, Body/Head, Coming Apart, Experimental, Experimental Rock, Kim Gordon, Noise rock
HEALTH: Get Color
Love Pump (2009)
When Crystal Castles remixed HEALTH’s Crimewave tune into a droning disco killer, kids everywhere claimed HEALTH as their own without really knowing what the band sounded like. I read an interview with singer Jake Duzsik where he talked about audiences screaming for them to play Crimewave unaware that the band had already played the original, non disco version.
Despite feeling slightly burned by their brush with fame, HEALTH’s sophomore album is a step closer to the very far left of the mainstream. The shambolic nature of their debut has been reigned in and massaged into a more focused, but no less frenetic monster. Get Color is as noisy and ephemeral as its predecessor, but far more interested in juxtaposing sounds and atmospheres into cohesive fragments. Less random bursts of noise, and more slow-burning blow-outs create tension and a more memorable listening experience.
We Are Water starts out as a spacey, Euro disco number that’s glittery but uneasy. With the introduction of a snare drum it morphs into post punk territory, while the crystallised synthesisers and treble infused guitars build into a Black Metal wall of noise and blast beats. It stops for a moment, before returning with sedated hip hop rhythm reminiscent of Dalek and then fades away with a gently pulsing kick drum. These manic numbers are interspersed with dreamier tracks such as Before Tigers, which are content to amble along on pulses of reverb drenched noise and cascading drums.
HEALTH are obsessed with production, their manifesto revolves around music that is devoid of sensation or human spirit, and Get Color achieves this with overly effected instruments and studio trickery. Jake’s androgynous vocals are mystifying enough but it’s the prickly guitars and keyboards, like shards of glass shimmering across the floor, that give HEALTH an alien sound all their own. The guitars in particular have the treble cranked so high they make Big Black sound like a bunch of pussies. And when HEALTH allow some bass into their sound on Die Slowly the change in pitch is crushing. All these effects are cleverly offset by BJ’s live, natural drumming; although even he rarely falls into a standard rhythm, preferring to play his kit in a tribal manner similar to that of Liars (an extra set of floor toms are abused by various band members during their live shows).
Get Color is an intense experience. The ups and downs can get tiring and it’s not easy to decipher where HEALTH want to take you. That said, the progression between their debut and this is seriously exciting, and their willingness to push the boundaries of their sound suggests that the band could have a perfect ten album in them yet.
Fat Possum Records (2009)
Singing about Beach Demons and Surf Goths, while your band/record title is purposely misspelt, suggests that you’re either annoyingly hip, charmingly naive or in need of a break from the spliffs. Based on 22-year-old Nathan Williams’ drugged-out, hot-mess of a performance at the Pitchfork Music Festival earlier this year, it’s easy to assume the latter, but more likely it’s a combination of all three.
Wavvves reeks of acid trips and bong mist. Based in San Diego, Williams’ music wafts out from the smelly bedrooms of lazy blissed-out teenagers living hippy surf/skate- lifestyles. California has bred a host of these bands recently, from Abe Vigoda to No Age. As if the ghosts of Laurel Canyon, sick of vapid celebrities taking over their hood, have wandered into more urban territory to possess the souls of 4-track recorders and channel noise-decayed pop songs through the bodies of young men.
Where No Age stem from the experimental edge of Hardcore, and Abe Vigoda have their Tropicana thing going on, Wavves is a retro beast. Think of 60’s girl groups spewing out of cracked speakers, and guitars that aren’t quite in tune. The sound is blown out in a Black Metal kinda’ way, but the vocal harmonies needle into your brain and nest there. Like parasites.
The lazy recording techniques and Ramones-esque song titles add a cute naïve schtick to Wavves and his lo-fi pop. Songs like No Hope Kids (“Got no car, got no money…..”) and To the Dregs give predictable two-chord rock songs and apathetic drawls a noisy makeover, so that basic melodies become bulbous and weird. Plenty have used Lo-Fi to this effect before but Wavves has a knack for making his music feel like a warm and hazy memory. Something you want to remember but can’t. It’s probably the pot.
Where Wavvves becomes questionable is when he lets go of the hooks. Killer Punx, Scary Demons throws up twangy drones, organ trills and moaning voices, coming off as a sick joke instead of exciting experiment. And yet somehow it feels like Williams’ is having the last laugh, as he lights another joint, drops another trip and sees how far he can go. Which brings this review round full circle; Wavvves has a naive and playful charm that is a true delight, and who can begrudge Williams’ for indulging in some, ahem, outside inspiration? The problem is his hip, teenage nihilism and ‘I make noise therefore I am’ attitude. Maybe Evol Kween is showing his age but that false apathy gets annoying. And I fucking hate Hipsters.