Thursday, July 3, 2008

Thurston Moore - Built for Lovin' (Lost Treasures of the Underworld LP)

If you're reading this blog (which you are) then you probably know the deal with Thurston Moore. Not only is he the front-man for Sonic Youth, but the guy has done so much to promote so many small labels and burgeoning artists over the years that it's pretty tough to tell just how deeply his influence has permeated the culture. How many artists have gotten a jump start from Thurston because he gave them some tape to release in a limited edition? Or how many bands have been able to hold their own because he let them open for Sonic Youth (i.e. Robedoor) or even one of his many side projects (last review mentioned Northampton Wools for example...)? The guy is everywhere, and frankly he has remained quite righteous in his ways, so huzzah to that. Hell, he'll probably even increase traffic to this blog after all this is done...

At the Albany show, I figured I'd pick this one up straight from the source, as a little colored vinyl never hurt anyone and hey, if worse came to worse it was cheap, so it could at least be a solid investment. To be honest, I don't even think I own a Thurston solo album. I've heard some of the noisier stuff, and that most recent Trees at the Academy disc got a few plays, but I've been way too busy discovering new great bands that I hadn't heard of to drop my precious dollars on something I had. Silly me for thinking this was going to be a Sonic Youth sound-alike rather than further proof that the guy is still as deep in the shit as anyone who hasn't made it out of the basement and sold millions of records over the last twenty years.

Side one opens with "Groupie," which amounts to about a minute of acoustic guitar chordal futzing, like the beginning stage of some much heavier Sonic Youth song. "Pussyman" follows, replete with porn star voices and one repeating squelch of a noise, is even shorter before the tape cuts and we jump into "Hell," which represents some straight up oscillator mayhem--sounds kind of like the opening of one of those motorcycle rallies, everyone revving up, first in the front and then traveling backwards in a wave of grinding. This one's all sputtering nonsense, just blubbering along as various textures are added along the way, each more mechanic and mindless than the last. The whole thing actually builds into a strange sort of sound world where you can't really tell what's actually there from what you WANT to be there. I don't really know what it means when I don't want anything extra to be there, but I hear it anyway. Hmmm... eventually the thing gets bassier, shifting to a physically-effecting level of repetition--maybe Thurston's approaching that frequency I hear they use in the military to make soldiers shit themselves. Stomach curdling stuff. Cuts off right quick too.

Track four, "Shoot It Up," sounds like a real basement stoner jam, with some heavy bass provided by Pavement member Mark Ibold as well as the always steady swaying of drummer John Moloney. Screams and shit for a minute plus and then it's done. Cut to track five, "Snow Sex in Oslo" half the length of the previous track. This time we're in acoustic mode, a little catchier and poppier than the last one, more together it seems. Hell, track six, "Pornstar in the Morning," is halfway to Sonic Youth's next record before that one just stops after thirty-six seconds--Steve Shelley plays drums on one of these tracks, and I'm pretty sure it's this one, which supposedly was supposed to make it into some HSBC commercial... too weird to make the cut I guess. "Los Angeles," the last track on the side, is another blast of full on turmoil via huge swathes of electronic washes, wave after wave, all running together atop warmer, though highly suppressed, runs underneath. Eventually some No Wave style guitar comes in like the sound track to hyper speed ants scuttling along in a mad rush to avoid the surf. A really nice full sound on this one, and long enough to let you get fully immersed.

Side two opens with "Anticipated Action," another acoustic workout--just a snippet of peaceful wankery that, if amplified, could be either a Black Sabbath track or, well, a Sonic youth one. How bout that? The next track is way short, and features some guy talking to Ringo--just a weird ass tape cut up. Strange stuff. Following that is "Media Scum," fifteen seconds of "huh?" before "Nederlanden Meat Joy," the longest track on the record, and certainly the most expansive. This is some psychedlic stuff that opens like the distorted theme to Super Mario Bros. or some Atari game. Real electronic fuckery here, all circuits going nuts and effects pedals doing what they do best: effecting. For all I know the source on this might be a guitar, but somehow I doubt it. The thing has too many different sounds to be coming from one source. The array on here is wild, a real test of how little cohesion you can handle. Well bring it on, man, structure's overrated. On second thought though ,there's definitely some structure here--Thurston has a great sense of movement, and the musical actions here rarely seem to be random ones (even the vocal ghost yalps). There's a strong sense of a kind of stop-start movement here, not unlike some free jazzer (say, Albert Ayler) and their approach to pure motion in a piece. Noisy stuff that really rocks out, but definitely not without its ideas, especially when the wall drops down and you get a glimpse of the beautiful gurgling underbelly behind the cacophony.

The last track, "Sex Addict," is another electronic sputtering session, this time featuring some beautiful feedback and gentle scratches and grating--slower and more spatial than the last one. You can pretty much picture Thurston sitting under those deep emerging bass drones, lurching his way through the sounds. More than anything else, a sense of performance and movement comes through. Some might even call it feeling. I dig. Even though it might be a collection of bits rather than a real album, Built for Lovin' has a strange cohesion. Being able to see the different sides of Thurston's work--whether they be acoustic guitar noodlings, basement rock jammers, or noise sludgefests--displays a strange unity of purpose and approach that has some serious merits. That said, this is some strange lovin to be built for. Let's call it at that. May be long gone (it's limited to 500) but I hear a repress is coming so keep your eyes peeled.

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