(Northern Spy, 2013)
It’s Record Store Day again? It seems like this happens way more than once a year. It’s like those greedy mom and pop establishments have nothing better to do than prey on every last dollar I earn. “Oh yeah, let’s stock all this limited stuff and see how fast it moves. I’ve got my stopwatch ready. Here come the big bucks.”
[muffled voices: What? There are barely any mom and pop stores left? How did that happ… Oh… That’s not good. I should probably change my direction, then.]
All hail the independently owned record store! If you weren’t out somewhere on Record Store Day 2013, this past Saturday, then you missed out, and you’re helping to nail shut the coffin of a reputable institution with your negligence. Records used to mean something, before the age of easily obtainable and physically nonexistent MP3s. Music is more than data – it’s a social experience, championed by the brick-and-mortar record store, but the experience of purchasing beautiful slabs of artfully created vinyl with your friends and fellow music fans is more endangered than the Pyrenean Ibex.
[muffled voices: What? Extinct, really? The last one died in 2000?! Aw, c’mon!]
OK, I’ve got one for you then. Maybe there’s still one or two of these left out there somewhere, but you’ll have to be on your toes. If you see a copy of The Only Way to Go Is Straight Through, a live improv collab between experimental guitar titans Thurston Moore, famously of Chelsea Light Moving, and Loren Connors, famously of his own damn self, don’t sleep on it. Only 3,000 were pressed, don’t you know, and who doesn’t want to feel like they’re a fly on the wall of an intimate performance featuring these two maestros? There has to be at least 3,000 of you out there.
The record is two sidelong jams: Side A was recorded at The Stone in Manhattan on July 14, 2012, for the second annual Spy Music Festival. You might imagine how it unfolds – wild swirling nastiness as Moore and Connors whack away at their instruments in unconventional manners. They rein it in enough so that some un-effected notes peek through before the effects gradually reappear and the playing takes a decidedly non-experimental turn. All this and I’m only five minutes in. There’s over fifteen minutes left on the side at this point, and whether you stay for the phasers or the space whales, for the afterburners of the Peacekeeper Marauders or the classic rock eye of the weirdo solar waste storm (don’t worry, that’s “classic rock” with scare quotes, actually, and it doesn’t last very long – it turns back into squiggley squiggles), it’s fifteen additional minutes of a workshop in mind bending.
Side B was recorded a couple of months later, on October 17, 2012, at Public Assembly in Brooklyn where the duo headlined Northern Spy’s CMJ showcase. It’s a bit more meditative than side A, but still contains the requisite molten freakouts. As a whole, it’s pretty much everything you’d expect from Moore and Connors in a live improvisational setting. It’s easy to get lost in what’s essentially, not necessarily the proverbial love letter, but a physical monument to the guitar, only this monument is built using something like the Beijing National Stadium’s Olympic bird’s nest design rather than the standard boring old Washington Monument’s. Each weird, unorthodox fragment supports the whole in a bizarre way, and sometimes, that’s just what you need: a teetering mess that you can’t believe is still standing after the wind blows. But it still is. And if you didn’t find yourself with a nifty copy of The Only Way to Go Is Straight Through on 4/20, well, I guess tough luck then. Find something else in the store and buy it anyway.
RIYL: modern art gallery soundtracks, chaos in space, guitars in blenders
Dang, it helps to see these guys in action.