Crowding into the cozy, dimly lit confines of The Echo Thursday night felt, as it often does, more like a small house show rather than a well-known L.A. venue. A virtue in my book, as a space so small allows for a highly intimate exchange to occur, in which performer and spectator seem to experience the music wholly together, in creation and reception, unbroken by the divide between stage and seating, security, and the like. What a treat then that the night’s headliner, Body/Head, is lead by none other than Sonic Youth rock goddess Kim Gordon.
After the unfortunate disbandment of Sonic Youth in 2011, accompanied by Gordon’s divorce from band mate Thurston Moore and a bout with breast cancer, Gordon embarked on various side projects. One of those projects being, in partnership with accomplished guitarist Bill Nace, the experimental noise guitar duo Body/Head. The two released their debut album Coming Apart in 2013, a sprawling and emotionally overwhelming collection of dark and droning, almost-atmospheric music for a harder set.
The album focuses heavily on women’s roles. Featuring track titles like “Actress,” “Murderess,” and “Last Mistress,” it’s clear that the album’s content utilizes a multitude of metaphor and imagery heavily influenced by Gordon’s experiences as a woman. As a result, the music comes across as highly personal, allowing us to see, and feel, a softer side of the rock star.
As I watched Body/Head emit their hypnotically sensual brand of drone, each track blending seamlessly into the next, I began to realize that their music is an experience. A stream of satisfying noise. Devoid of percussion and almost any beat, the two craft their punk meditative magic with two guitars. Layered on top are Gordon’s signature vocals, here exuding a desperation and pain, like howls in the night across a foggy field. Words often became unidentifiable, held out in expressive moans, or rattled off with fervent animosity and tension. Repetition added further depth to the mix, hammering particular lyrics into our consciousness.
Beside her, Nace held his own, commanding his guitar powerfully, and summoning from it a myriad of electric screams and groans to deliver Gordon’s lyrics to new heights. Throughout, their sound remained consistently somber, drenched in deep distortion and piercing feedback, almost unlistenable in the best way possible. If a guitar could cry, if agony daydreamed, it would sound like this. The result being music that feels like an improvisational jam session, free from verse and chorus structures, yet still polished and grounded. Possessing a quality that feels endless. I could not help myself from feeling like someone had heated “Brother James” over a stove, stripped it of its percussive elements, and pulled it like warm taffy into an ominous, lengthy collection of sounds.
Opening up for Body/Head were Eloe Omoe and Syko Friend. Take a look at our photos below of all three performances.
Words: Michael Iemma
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