Music

Body/Head: No Waves

Photo: Annabel Mehran

The experimental duo of Kim Gordon and Bill Nace return with No Waves, a live document that strives to capture the impact of their impressive debut album.


Body/Head

No Waves

Label: Matador
US Release Date: 2016-11-11
UK Release Date: 2016-12-16
Amazon
iTunes

Of the many projects that sprung forth from the dissolution of Sonic Youth, Body/Head--the work of Kim Gordon and collaborator Bill Nace--was initially gripping and memorable. This was largely a result of both the intensity of the band and the raw, emotional nature of Gordon’s compositions, disguised though they were behind a veil of feedback and noise. Coming Apart was resonant in a way that Gordon hadn’t been in a while and her former bandmates couldn’t hope to match. On No Waves, the duo aims to channel that intensity in a live setting, and while they occasionally keep the listener at arm’s length, that visceral feeling is mostly present.

Clocking in at just about 35 minutes, No Waves collects just four songs in three performances. Whereas the studio gave Body/Head a place to expand and meander, the stage seems to make the duo into a more direct and concise outfit. The set, captured from the group’s performance at the Big Ears festival in Knoxville on March 24th, 2014, feels a bit like a conversation in which the listener enters midway through. In other words, it can be a little uncomfortable; however, it doesn’t take long to get absorbed into the world that Gordon and Nace create. Their performance feels nothing like a conventional rock band; rather, it flows and intersects with the freewheeling intensity of jazz or orchestral performance pieces that emphasize improvisation and expression over structured interpretation.

As such, No Waves comes across as a release of new material entirely. Sure, that’s true in one case--opener “Sugar Water” is a brand new song--but even the familiar material here sounds nothing like what one would have expected. Two of Coming Apart’s finest tracks, “Abstract” and “Actress”, are blurred together into one exhilarating piece that terrifies as often as it intrigues. Meanwhile, “The Show Is Over” ebbs and flows in a way that steadily escalates the tension of the piece.


Please don't ad block PopMatters.

We are wholly independent, with no corporate backers.

Simply whitelisting PopMatters is a show of support.

Thank you.


A simplistic reading would figure that it imitates the loud-quiet-loud dynamics of the Pixies, but that would imply that Body/Head is working within a discernible structure. Instead, Gordon and Nace shift dynamics at will, feeling the mood of the crowd and each other and simply reacting. This instinctual method of playing ends up having both a positive and negative effect on the music being performed: it gives the pieces a sense of spontaneity, yet it also robs them of some power. The visceral impact of Body/Head’s older material can get lost when the two focus more on the moment than on what those pieces meant in the first place.

Even so, No Waves is far from an undermining of what Body/Head’s intentions were the last time out. Gordon still sounds renewed as both a performer and a writer; her compositions remain both deeply personal and cerebral. As a performance, though, No Waves is even more impressive. Far from a staid, arch piece of performance art, the two craft a raw, instinctual web of noise and guitar screech onstage that has far deeper roots than one would expect. As a live snapshot, No Waves is largely successful and further contributes to the artistic mini-renaissance that Gordon is experiencing as of late.

7

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image