field report no.111216

LOCATION: National Sawdust BK.NY
SUBJECT: Body / Head

Kim Gordon is true royalty, both as an uncommonly challenging rock star and as an NYC celebrity-icon. For decades she has made uncompromising music fashionable. Her public persona is unpretentious but a such a level of artsy cool usually reserved for hindsight and rarely attributed to anyone in the present. I could not think of a more fitting show to end my 10-year run in Brooklyn.

Her duo with Bill Nace, as Body / Head, is often referred to as a noise-pop group, but that doesn't really seem to capture it. They deal, almost exclusively, in dissonance, but rarely build their wall of guitars into wails or all-out assaults. Theirs is a textural palette: all steel wool, sandpaper and gravel. From this prickly, improvised bed, amorphous songs emerge. Kim Gordon's voice has never been there to soothe you. Here, it's a downright haunted presence: the blues moan of Blind Willie Johnson filtered through avant rock. While there's some precedent for this in the distended blues of Loren Connors and Suzanne Langille's collaborations (a comparison I think Gordon could appreciate) it doesn't make it any less arresting.

NOTES: Body / Head; Silk Purse


Glitterbust, 2016

A part of me wants to say Kim Gordon's project, Glitterbust, sounds lazy—but that's too pejorative. It's an easy-going, back porch jam sort of lazy: comfortable, familiar and if not terribly ambitious that doesn't imply that everyone isn't fully invested in the proceedings or the album less effective for it. In fact, it's nearly an unparalleled feat you can call such an atonal and abstract album laid back. Body / Head (her duo with Bill Nace) is a tightly wound, fraught listening experience. Glitterbust uses the same basic components (this time, with Alex Knost), but instead evolves organically as it plays out—as if feedback were just the natural, unplayed state of the guitar. Glitterbust, the nature documentary of noise pop.


Kim Gordon / DJ Olive / Ikue Mori, 2000

The first time I heard this odd Kim Gordon album, I didn't know what to make of it. Sure, as a member of Sonic Youth, Gordon helped produce some of the most experimental rock to grace the radio since before the grunge boom. This is a wholly experiment. There's little in the way of structure. The songs—as much as you can find something that resembles one—drift freely in open figures of sound amongst anti-guitar-playing, laptop squiggles and intermittent turntable noodling. A description alone, that makes it clear why I was initially put off by SYR5

Records like this are alchemical; more than their constituent parts. They coalesce around a unity of sound and a sustained mood, even if that mood is queasy and uncomfortable. Moments of synchronicity feel more magical for how intuitive or haphazard any individual gesture or event feels. Looking back now, SYR5 is less a curious cul de sac so much as a working prototype of Kim Gordon's post-Sonic Youth career.