Body/Head – Coming Apart (Matador Records)
Ever since the end of the marriage between Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon, everyone has been looking for their Sonic Youth fix elsewhere. Thurston’s solo works are great and his collaborations with various figures in the noise world are also regarded highly by myself. Kim Gordon on the other hand has a fairly less prominent existence in the post Sonic Youth world. Now that the debut album by Body/Head, her musical partnership with guitarist Bill Nace, has been released, all that’s changed.
This feels like a very minimal record. Basically it’s guitar feedback and Kim Gordon’s voice. Even with such little input the sound that comes out manages to sound like a hell of a lot more. The open spaces we’re presented with allow for subtle nuances in Kim’s voice to become an instrument in itself, more like a texture than a vehicle for melody. Never has the sound of Kim Gordon shouting in your ears been so satisfying. Words, phrases, screams and moans all combine to create an uneasy experience where you’re invited to feel the pain despite whether you understand it or not. Vocally, it picks up where the likes of Sonic Youth’s EVOL left us. Slow, dark and intense.
Then we have Bill Nace. Lashings of guitar feedback, repetitive hammering of notes and fuzzy, guitar string soup provide a liquid base for Kim Gordon’s vocal offerings to float around in. What’s not to get excited about? You can feel comfortable and lulled into a false sense of security by the emergence of a melody only to be pushed away into darkness by howls of layered noise. This is all about repetition and honing in on a minimal pattern, trying to extrapolate every last grain of sound from it. His guitar work, combined with Kim’s, really stands out here.
Coming Apart is a lengthy album too. Clocking in at over an hour, it’s a real sit down and absorb it kind of record. Far from something you put on to accompany you washing the dishes or making a cup of tea. It needs to be savoured. It asks for your full attention and rewards you for investing such time. It’s a semi-improvised affair and it really shows. Without pre-determined structure, the two are able to really explore the sounds they have to work with. Everything is boiled down to the smallest detail, making the whole thing such a dense and rewarding record. Every little particle of sound can be stretched out to create a whole new narrative.
This probably isn’t an album for everyone though. We all have our limits. Obviously it’s nowhere near the most Avant Garde albums out there, but it does stray towards that side. If you’re looking for an easy listen full of melodies and chord progressions then you may want to skip this one. However, if you’re looking for a really detailed experimental record that rewards your ears after each listen then I’d give this a go.
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