Click here to [close]

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Body/Head – Coming Apart (Matador, 2013) ****

A Deep Listening Review 1/2

By Tom Burris

One arpeggio electric guitar chord plays throughout the opening track while Kim Gordon's ghostly voice speak-sings “I can only think of you in the abstract” repeatedly.  The other guitar drones on one note, goading the singer toward the abyss.  It sets the pace nicely and braces the listener for the impending psychedelic sundown. 

Up to this point, Body/Head has released purely improvised recordings exclusively.  With Coming Apart, the formula changes a bit but the chemistry is the same.  They've chopped up their two-guitar skeletal sketches into song-sized chunks while retaining the looseness of their overall approach.  They've also refined their music for their Matador debut, their first recording that hasn't seen a limited release.  (It's also the only record they've released that's still in print.)  There are overdubs here, but they are kept to a minimum.  There is more of an architectural base present, but the general feeling is that the droning jams were molded into songs after the initial recording process, making Coming Apart function as a kind of  anorexic yin to Royal Trux's Twin Infinitives' dense yang. 

I bought this record on release day (last Tuesday) & the clerk asked me who I thought was going to have the best post-Sonic Youth band.  I said my money was on Body/Head, but that the Thurston Moore / John Moloney record was really good too.  Body/Head is certainly the most interesting project.  Kim is playing guitar in this band.  No bass.  Bill Nace normally plays guitar sitting on a chair, scraping and “preparing” the strings with pieces of wood and metal.  If you 're into serious noise guitar, Nace is your man.  In Body/Head he stands, mostly picking the strings like a regular dude.  And it still sounds boss. 

Lyrically, it's psychologically dark but creatively playful enough to be haunting without being creepy.  Musically, those two guitars are kept separated in the mix so you get Bill in one channel and Kim in the other.  You will not miss drums.  This is the duo that got Ikue Mori to play an acoustic drum kit for the first time in decades at a recent gig; so the fact that they took the purist route and left this recording percussion-free should be commended.  The purity of vision and/or the willpower to pass up the temptation to ask Ikue to play on these sessions (when they probably could have done so) is certainly more than could be expected from just about anybody making challenging guitar-based music.

On “Everything Left”, Gordon has overdubbed three separate vocal tracks, giving a slightly schizophrenic impression over long sustained guitar drones.  “Aint” is a post-noise-rock cover/salute to Nina Simone.  “Black” is a hypnotic and majestic post-everything cover/salute to Patty Waters, but the intensity Waters gave “Black is the Colour of My True Love's Hair” is expressed by Nace, not by Gordon's vocal, as he coaxes what honestly sounds like a one-man Metal Machine Music out of his amp!  On “Frontal,” Gordon sings “I feel so weak / so stupid too” as the music runs through several changes, culminating in a collage of feedback loop (from Nace), a 2-note loop (from Gordon) and a one-note drone on the bottom string of Gordon's guitar.  It is beautiful and intense in the way that “Venus In Furs” is beautiful and intense, but from the viewpoint of the bottom instead of the top.

Coming Apart is the sound of a band that can be pensive and confident, tentative and all-in, simultaneously.  Sensitive and aggressive, smart and dumb, beautiful and ugly, yin / yang, body / head. 


Listen here.

You can buy from