Archive for the ‘Thurston Moore – We Sing A New Language’ Category

My writing work, so far, as essentially been a representation of personal fixations and obsessions. As a long-time fan of Nirvana and Swans, how could I not enjoy being buried in learning more of them? The same went for the Thurston Moore book I did in 2017: I’ve been collecting Moore’s music for a significant portion of my life so having the opportunity to understand it’s creation, the context around it, appealed hugely and led to the ‘We Sing A New Language’ volume. With it being a natural part of how I live anyway, always looking out for the rare releases, seeking out Moore’s latest endeavours, the book finished but my interest just continued on as ever.

Link to the official YouTube link below:

My highlight in 2018 was Moore’s collaboration with Adam Golebiewski ‘Disarm’ – released on the Endless Happiness label back in the spring on double LP and on CD. Partially, and oddly, there was a touch of nostalgia for me: I’d become a fan of Moore’s solo records back in the mid-nineties via his duo/trio arrangements involving percussionist Tom Surgal. With just the two instruments usually filling the sound-field I’d found it possible to follow the physical motion of a performer through the sounds created and I’d enjoyed the rock vibe behind what was created – it was a gateway to the wider world of improvisation. ‘Disarm’ shares a lot with that spell of activity when Moore was feeling his way across the rope bridge connecting the wilder ends of rock music to the vast terrain of improv. Of course by this point in time his chops are impeccable and the record is one of the most ‘punk’ outbursts of improvisational clatter seen in Moore’s discography in a while. The first two tracks really load up on crunch and slam like it’s 1995 all over again.

https://endlesshappiness.bandcamp.com/album/disarm

I found the back of the LP slightly disingenuous in that it states Golebiewski is merely supplying ‘drums’ – not true. My attraction to Golebiewski’s work is how far away he works from the clichéd, beat-keeping, four-four focused instrument most recognise as drumming. What lured me into this sonic space was the chance to hear artists reinvent the potential of a physical instrument, not by letting computers take the strain, but through sheer intellectual and creative will. Golebiewski dislocates the drum kit’s palette of sounds, turning it into an array of scrapes, scratches, sudden pummelling and genuinely surprising and subtle effects. I’ve followed his work a while now – 2017’s ‘Meet The Dragon’ with Sharif Sehnaoui was a favourite too as was 2016’s ‘Relephant’ duo with Fredrick Lonberg-Holm – and it’s always great to see that desire to forge forward and do the unexpected. I wind up wondering if there’s a line, if there’s a point where I’ll simply have seen the full bag of tricks possible with a drum-kit but, so far, there’s always something more.

https://adamgolebiewski.bandcamp.com/

Pointing to highlights in improvised music can be tricky, moments come together, cohere briefly, then the whole point is to pull them apart and see what else might live within them. To pick on a few though, on Disturb, at around the two-and-a-half minute mark, the track felt like bird song to me played on guitar and percussion – it awed me, the ability to make something sound so natural on these most de rigeur of rock instruments. Distract, meanwhile, begins tentatively with strings scrunched, metal ringing, the drum-kit possessed by some muted poltergeist who rattles up a dusty storm of small sounds into an unsettling gust. Soon the momentum builds,  both musicians rush toward the boundaries in a hail of destroyed notes and hazing beats – there are even recognisable runs of notes on the guitar, drum rolls, it’s like hearing a song that’s been dismantled into constituent parts . The only disappointment I could point to is common to a lot of records documenting improvised performances: the last track kinda just ‘ends’, there’s nothing to mark that moment sonically speaking, no grand finale. In some ways, isn’t that the most ‘real’ truth? Sure. But I still enjoy something that says ‘here’s where we chose to end, no more.’ I have my fingers crossed that, someday, I have enough left inside of me that I know it’s time to put that full-stop on my life too. Hooray!

https://blankeditions.bandcamp.com/album/not-a-cell-phone-in-sight-just-living-in-the-momment

Back in the heartland days of the U.S. punk scene, it was normal for labels to build an identity around a particular city or region – hip hop has a lot of the same focus: maybe it’s a consequence of the vastness of America that location forms a core approach to defining belonging?

Blank Editions does a great job of documenting the remarkably creative swirl taking place in Stoke Newington. It was a real surprise to me, having long since decided that London was a black hole, that there was still something culturally alive taking place so close to the dead centre.

One of my favourite gig moments this year – god it’s nice to be so surprised I couldn’t stop giggling! – was catching Camp X-Ray (CXR) at Rough Trade in Bristol. I’d been about to leave, but Eva Prinz told my girlfriend that we really had to stay to see these guys. Wow. Stripped down and sharp instrumental presence but their front man…I’d seen him at Thurston Moore’s 60th birthday, this sharp, angular, slightly stern looking bloke – and he’d been around all evening. Performing, imagine Iggy Pop blurred into Mick Jagger’s stage moves and English tone, moderated by 2010s awareness of the rules around physical contact and courtesy to audiences. He was magnificent! Dog on a leash, straining at the limits of how far his mic cord would let him go, mic stand wielded, lyrics declaimed directly into the faces of the semi-circle of audience staying resolutely an inch out of his reach except when one brave soul or another would allow themselves to be dragged into the shaking, shivering, pogo’ing, braying, snarling, beautiful punk dance. I couldn’t catch a single photo where he stood still enough to seem real – most of the photos I took he’s genuinely a ghost – there’s the outline of where he’s transparent or the mass of his body is already a blur half a foot away from where his body begins. Brilliant.

Anyways! They’re on the sampler.

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https://campx-ray.bandcamp.com/album/hard-time-killin-floor-blues

 

 

I can only apologise for having a hard time getting a proper photo of this one – my monthly copy of The Wire arrived in the post this AM and I was pretty chuffed to see the review of We Sing A New Language in the book section – nice.

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There’s a basic truth to any music, writing, art, thinking: don’t put anything into the public domain unless you’re ready to relinquish control over it – once it’s out there it’s open to anyone to react to, build on, ignore, comment on…That’s the quid pro quo – an audience isn’t some passive thing that merely receives one’s product/meaning, it’s an interactive process feeding back, changing and altering whatever one contributes to it. It’s also a darn privilege to have anyone consider one’s work. Frankly, I’m increasingly realising that being commented on – regardless of the nature of the comment – is something to be grateful for.

So, above, in order: ‘We Sing A New Language’ was one of the two books reviewed by Uncut the other month; Record Collector magazine reviewed it in March/April; Louder Than War then reviewed it in May – Nice.

Soundblab were the earliest review I saw out there: https://soundblab.com/reviews/books/17495-thurston-moore-we-sing-a-new-language-by-nick-soulsby

And I’ve seen a blog review too: http://blog.concertkatie.com/2017/06/book-review-thurston-moore-we-sing-a-new-language.html

Any feeling from my side on the reviews? I’ve been very pleased with all of them – and the questions they raise, likewise, are understandable.

At root, what did I want to show with the book? The astonishing, unique – and underrated – breadth and depth of Thurston Moore’s works; the way in which Moore’s approach has been a serious factor in the creation, encouragement and survival of an ecosystem of artists and labels; the moments at which Moore has done something unusual by placing himself back in the position of a novice in order to pay his dues and open the door to other genres and explorations. That desire to appraise, appreciate and respect Moore’s work seems to have communicated.

I’m very glad I didn’t include brief statements regarding the nature of each of the recordings: bleugh, can you imagine reading 200+ two sentence attempts to describe what the music sounds like? It’s the ol’ ‘writing about music is like dancing about architecture’ point. I think I would have distracted from the core imagining of musical creation as a social and communal process.

I was definitely much moved by the experiences of the other musicians and label owners involved in getting the music out into the world: as I said earlier, with any public work, there’s a symbiosis between creator and recipient (in any capacity.) Imagine a rock thrown into a lake – the ripples, the plunge, the disturbances are all fundamental to the moment. Moore’s music, as experienced by the listener, is as much a consequence of that context, of rebounding effects, of the mediums and channels created by others – as it is just about his mind and instrument. That’s no lessening of his significance – look at the waves this fella has created! The book is full of them.

I confess I like Uncut’s statement on how I didn’t pay much mind to Bowie’s presence or to the Backbeat soundtrack and so forth – it’s just me, the celebrity aspect didn’t mean much to me compared to the existence of a good story that fitted an overall trend at a specific point in time within Moore’s work. Very fair of them to be tantalised by that and not so much by a cover record of a hardcore punk band. I agree even more with Record Collector magazine’s statement on how unnecessary the inclusion of the @ piece was: I’d had it in there from quite early on and just accepted its presence – I could/should have cut there.

Soundblab raised a real point regarding this book in the context of Kim Gordon’s volume the other year (full disclosure: truth is I was sorely disappointed by that book and what it did in terms of it’s portrayal of Gordon and her artistic and creative vitality: http://www.wordsandguitars.co.uk/2015/08/kim-gordon-girl-in-a-band/). The only issue I had during the Thurston book was needing to tone down and eliminate some of the praise being heaped on him by his collaborators, not to do him down, but because fulsome praise can read very blankly on the page. The simple truth is that I encountered not one person during my research who hadn’t found Moore an excellent collaborator in whatever context they worked with him – it was lovely in a way to experience such an honest and unrestrained outpouring of respect for a man and his work. As the book was about his discography, not a biography, there was no need for me to tackle the breakdown of his marriage – it didn’t matter to the music in the slightest. As for timing, I only started really writing in 2012: it’s taken me this time to get round to another of the artists I admire most – nothing more nor less overt than that.

So, overall, I’ve been delighted at the feedback; the apposite comments; the alternative perspectives and viewpoints; that each of the people above took time with this labyrinthine work – it’s been a trip!

http://thevinylfactory.com/features/oral-history-downtown-nyc-scene-thurston-moore/

An edit of the early portion of the “We Sing A New Language” book surveys the spell where Thurston Moore was embracing the opportunities to play in NYC and was invited to become a member of The Coachmen: their ‘official teenager’ as JD King, the band’s founder, calls him.

Biographies focused on Sonic Youth (an amazing band and worthy subject of study) underplay the extent to which Moore used his early years in the city, extending on into the first couple years of Sonic Youth, to experiment, learn, take part in whatever was going on at the time. He played in The Coachmen (art rock); Even Worse (art punk); in a variety of one-off combinations with artists like Stanton Miranda, Ann Demaranis, Elodie Lauten; as stand-in bassist for SWANS; as part of Lydia Lunch’s In Limbo band; as part of Glenn Branca’s symphonies and touring band; as part of Rhys Chatham’s Guitar Trio outings. It’s a fertile and intriguingly varied period of time that I couldn’t help but spend a lot of time focused on: life is fascinating when it hasn’t yet assumed a single shape.

…But that’s what’s most fascinating about Moore’s trajectory: the multifaceted and expansive nature of those early years, the embrace of music as a social experience and a creative pleasure, has never ceased. That’s why I’ve found myself such an avid follower of his works and why I actively wanted to spend nights and weekends for a year-and-a-half hearing people talk of their part in it. It wasn’t about ignoring Sonic Youth for aesthetic reasons: it was about providing an extended vision of Moore as a complete artist, assuming the reader knew Sonic Youth, then giving them a window into this wider world they might only have seen slim parts of.

The stereotypes are “oh he only plays noise”, or that it’s all improvisational: that’s a deeply reductionist vision of what emerges. In the early years (1978-1984) he’s mainly a part of other people’s musical visions, lending his own talents to what they want to hear, sometimes unrecognisable as the guitar player he would become. The mid-eighties are dominated by busy years for Sonic Youth leading up to Daydream Nation around which time, the four members having firmly established themselves as artists, each feels ever more able to step beyond the band, play in other contexts, bring ideas back to the fold.

The alternative explosion sees another curious spell in which Moore (and the other members of Sonic Youth) spend extraordinary energy on cover songs and tributes and drawing attention to the music of the underground that the mainstream utterly ignored: a lot of the world acted like ‘an alternative’ only came into existence with Nirvana’s Nevermind. The focus on U.S. hardcore is visible both in the solo discography and in Sonic Youth’s output around ’92-’93.

The improvisational urge, the fascination with free jazz had been percolating for years and – after Barefoot In The Head in 1988 – there’s an explosion from the mid-nineties. There’s a decisive moment where it would have possible to just go on chasing the mainstream zeitgeist; celebrity guests; MTV appearances…And instead the mature artist dives back into learning how to play in new ways and new forms.

Moore’s work trails vines all over the most exciting new sounds of the era. He’s engaging with remix culture in a full-on way few rock artists were quite ready for; he’s working within the illbient scene quite readily; the internet’s potential is embraced with DATs and files flying across the world; he’s playing in the Nemocore ‘scene’ in which the rules are no acoustic instruments, no drums or simulations of drums; his celebrity leads him to working on soundtrack material (and ends up with the resurrection of The Stooges amazingly enough); he’s working with visual artists and in gallery spaces at a time when that kind of cross-channel approach wasn’t yet an established norm in the art world let alone among musicians. The nineties may be when it became most difficult to keep up with Moore’s release schedule but it was one hell of a fertile growth for a guy formerly known only for working with the medium of rock.

The 2000s are when, increasingly, Moore works with artists who can – in some ways – be considered children of the scenes he’d been a part of in the eighties. The noise scene, the free folk/freak folk/whatever movement, the continuation of experimenting with the potential of the guitar as a solo sound source or as a component within other terrain – it’s all there. And, in an era where ever more talk was focused on the irrelevance of the physical and/or ‘place’ in music (nonsense by the way!) Moore (and Byron Coley, Chris Corsano and a variety of comrades) forge a music scene of their own in Western Massachusetts playing at local art spaces, creating venues (Yod), setting up record labels and record shops, staging mini-festivals and art happenings, inviting touring bands, funding releases by other musicians…

And what of now? Moore in the 2010s could be forgiven for slowing down or for it being a decade of ‘more of the same’. Instead it’s been a case of adding more to an already wide-ranging muse. The importance of Moore’s poetic works, writings and performance thereof cannot be understated: it’s been a significant part of his output both in the form of limited edition volumes, his time teaching at Naropa School of Disembodied Poetics, numerous live performances, musical backing for poets like Anne Waldman or Steve Dalachinsky, pieces published in magazines like Sensitive Skin magazine (https://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/rabo-de-peixe-thurston-moore/), numerous appearances documented on Fast Speaking Music (https://fastspeakingmusic.bandcamp.com/). Similarly, his long-held support of black metal led to the Twilight album (a new highlight), to a spoken word appearance with Krieg, to the Offerings 12″ of 2016 – long may it continue: the textural assault and twisted approach to rhythm and style embodied in black metal is a perfect new home for Moore.

There’s so much going on out there, never forgetting his continued enjoyment of playing in a full on rock band mode: Rock N Roll Consciousness (capital N tribute to Lou Reed’s Rock N Roll Animal), as a title, for me, evokes Moore’s nature: rock n roll was meant to be about rebellion, youth, making something anew – that relies on people who want it to go on growing, mutating, providing a home for the creative freaks and the charming madmen. Moore may have set his sights far beyond the confines of rock music but, in doing so, I can’t think of anything more rock n’ roll in its defiance of expectation.

 

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Really looking forward to this event – I have two of Daniel Rachel’s books on the shelf: ‘Isle of Noises: Conversations With Great British Songwriters’ and ‘Walls Come Tumbling Down’ which I purchased at the Louder Than Words music literary festival back last year. Great stuff – so despite the gloriously pugilistic poster I’m naturally thinking if I can haul both volumes (they’re pretty chunky) from Bristol to London to get him to sign them up for me.

It’s an intriguing topic – think there are a lot of ways to tackle in so I’m curious what directions the chair wishes to go in. We’ve each taken a very different path in terms of life, music, approach to oral history and what we’ve wanted to achieve by using it.

 

Second track from Thurston Moore’s new album Rock N Roll Consciousness came out today – quite an atmospheric piece, poetry. Lots of echoes of past pieces therein.

Plus, if anyone didn’t see them, there are two new Nirvana live shows on YouTube courtesy of Mike Ziegler – the Tallahassee video is real good and Miami is pretty interesting:

On the book front, someone kindly pointed out to me there’s a site doing free book shipping worldwide – pretty convenient for those outside of the U.K. who might find the Thurston Moore book interesting:

https://www.bookdepository.com/We-Sing-New-Language-Nick-Soulsby/9781785581366?ref=grid-view