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.
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.
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!