As Seen at Union Pool
It was to be a night of bewitching experimental music at the intimate Brooklyn institution known as Union Pool, put together by the mistress of the 80’s & 90’s alternative scene Kim Gordon. As one of the three frontpeople of the pinnacle NYC alt-rock group Sonic Youth, she became known for many of their major commercial hits, often anthropomorphizing the f*ck you riot girl vision, but also being known for avowing for the experimental freak-out jam. As most of the World now knows, Kim’s long-time marriage to fellow Sonic frontperson Thurston Moore has recently ended in divorce, and the prospect of more SY material is in serious doubt.
Even though Thurston has already been exploring a few different solo projects since, this is one of the first chances for American audiences to hear what Kim has in store for fans. Unlike her ex though, her path is clearly the more experimental route, as this past summer when she spent time in Europe doing duo-ships with DNA’s Ikue Mori, and with Boston-area free-noise guitarist Bill Nace called Body/Head. I had a the privilege of seeing one of her first post-breakup NYC appearances recently, when she popped on stage at a star-studded Dinosaur Jr. show at Terminal 5, where she belted out one of the most powerful numbers of the night called “Why Don’t You Like Me,” and that had me even more keen to see what she had coming.
Kim was sitting at the bar from early on, very open and welcoming to fans and old friends who popped by alike. Suddenly, with a loud bang, the first artist had bursted into the eardrums of the already packed venue of still frozen audiophiles, as Jake Meginsky, dressed in a heavy winter coat, was peeled to his special suitcase full of synthy equipment, producing a sound described as drone/scrape, which is an ambient improv-heavy DJ sound, filled to the brim with unusual noises and unexpected breaks, never keeping on the same beat or groove long enough to feel like shuffling your feet to it as it keeps you guessing what may be next.
Next was a Brooklyn trio called Sightings, who already have a hefty catalogue of minimalistic experimental music available, and their confidence and clarity were apparent from the start. Sometimes their jams would be extremely structural, but often end in complete free-form freak-outs, as drummer Jon Lockie had some extremely complex time changes in his arsenal, bassist Richard Hoffman kept complete control of the insanity, even at it’s most anarchic points, and the guitars and occasional harmonic ratings of Mark Morgan really made the whole thing quite thrilling.
Still, when they stretched white sheet across the Union’s red curtain for the strange slow-motion black & white video projections, and when Kim and Bill came out to set up their instruments, the sell-out crowd really got excited. Their set was full of songs that were more improv than solid tunes, although you could tell hints of their recent released recorded works in their structures, like the single “The Eyes, The Mouth,” released last year through the Belgian label Ultra Eczema, and themes from a just-released self-titled 12” by the Open Mouth label, all really sounding fresh and expansive live and in person. Nace, in a thick hoody rocked, stumbled, and warbled about in deep atmospheres of intense guitar strums and sounds while Kim would give off the occasion vocal ranting in between wandering into transfixed tirades of hypnotized spells, losing herself in the moment while flailing about, using the mic bumping against the hardwood floor for a surprise beat, fooling with the guita plug for the tactile feel, scratching the strings of her axe straight upside her amp for an extreme texture, or even just finding an usual hand or pick placement to produce the proper sound. None of her fans expected to hear any of her previous work, as we all know she is the spirit of the new and now, and in her presence, you get to know what being in the heat of the moment of creative genius is really all about.