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Sunday, September 4, 2016

Thurston Moore & Frank Rosaly – Marshmallow Moon Decorum (Corbett vs Dempsey, 2016) ****

By Tom Burris

This slowly building inferno was the first collaboration between guitarist Moore and drummer Rosaly way back in 2012 in Chicago.  Fortunately, the whole thing was captured on a pristine multi-tracked recording and has finally been released by Corbett vs. Dempsey.  Moore has improvised over the past few decades with many stellar and forward thinking percussionists, including William Winnant, William Hooker and Tom Surgal, but Frank Rosaly may be the most formidable of the bunch, given that a prominent characteristic of his style is pummeling every piece of the drum kit simultaneously. 

After a tentative beginning, the conversation heats up around the 6:30 mark to the tune of Moore's squelch bombs challenging Rosaly's tribal pounding.  Sharp twists and turns characterize the first half of the 32-minute piece, often with Moore's guitar so overloaded that it sounds like Merzbow has joined them for a trio.  When he goes for the sticks-in-strings schtick it takes me back to the olden days when post-rock seemed an exciting possibility.  No one yet knew it would turn into two opposite poles of pop-songs-with-new-textures (best exemplified by Sonic Youth's major label output during the 90s) and new-rock-textures-pushing-toward-the-avant-garde-establishment (represented by much of Sonic Youth's SYR label's releases).

But wait a minute.  This whole “improv rock” thing has become its own genre by now, hasn't it?  Body/Head, Magik Markers, Black Spirituals, NNCK, the Dead C's later work...   This rock-based improvisation for its own self-indulgent sake represents a purity that has somehow slowly evolved into an established genre.  The music is a hit-or-miss proposition of course, but that's the case with improvised music no matter what the original structure happened to be before the musicians decided to break out.  And the break-out here really happens halfway through the piece, when Moore and Rosaly burst into flames and ride the blaze out to its charred conclusion, proving there is perhaps nothing more cleansing than a fire. 

So when does the mainstream recognition come?  Even the four-year span between performance and the belated release of this particular disc seems premature – at least in the U.S. - as current mainstream America has proven reluctant to feel the burn.

Also -

Fans of Rosaly and/or Moore will want the excellently recorded disc, but for the curious - an audience video of the entire set is available to view here: