(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Monday, July 25, 2011

CD review - Thurston Moore, Demolished Thoughts (2011)

Sonic Youth frontman continues acoustic exploration, finding exotic sounds

Sonic Youth has a distinctive approach to their noise driven sound. With alternate tunings and prepared instruments, they seem obsessed with odd instrumental harmonies and pulling new sounds from the chaotic edge of dissonance. Key founder, Thurston Moore is central to that exploration and much of his work outside of Sonic Youth has pushed the borders of experimental noise rock.

Moore's last solo album, Trees Outside the Academy, broke the pattern to wander into more acoustic realms, especially on songs like Silver Blue. Demolished Thoughts continues that trajectory into a softer sound, based on acoustic guitar accompanied by strings, harp, bass, and the occasional horns. The guitar parts still connect to Sonic Youth, expanding on some of the guitar from the opening section of Massage the History (The Eternal, review here), for example.

The songs on Demolished Thoughts feel thoughtful, but sometimes unsettled. The introspective mood is prone to drift into slightly darker spaces, not so much threatening, but shadowed and probing.

Most of the songs rely solely on percussive guitar or bass, leaving out the drums completely (Benediction is the exception). This organic, flowing sound sets up some intricate interplay between Moore's guitar and the backing instruments. Musically. Moore offers a twist on the acoustic jam vibe of bands like It's a Beautiful Day or some of Hot Tuna's work.

Blood Never Lies shows off that musical cooperation, featuring a chiming guitar paired with a violin line. The counterpoint harp fills and subtly buried bass combine with a sense of inevitability to mesh into an edgeless whole. Moore's guitar has a touch of John Fahey, whose acoustic polish is quite distant from Sonic Youth's normal fare. Moore's relaxed, breathy vocals add a dreamy veneer. The mood is soft and reflective with brief intimations of shadow.

Circulation is a closer relative to Thurston Moore's normal sound. The driving beat, accusatory tone, and dark, obscure lyrics all shape the sound of an acoustically arranged Sonic Youth song.
The perfect lights are backwards
Reflected cries
Needle hits black lacquer
Speakers forgive lies
I'm not running away
Circulation makes her crazy
She's my "here-to-stay"
She just came by to shoot you, baby
The percussive strumming covers the drum part. The guitar's alternate tuning sounds like sometime off a Velvet Underground song, but the cool harmonic structure builds a mountain of subtle tension. Soothing violin and spooky echoed harp contrast to create a moody complexity.

Each song sets its own stage, from the staccato, angular melody and hypnotic scales of Mina Loy to the whimsical lyrics filling out the reverie of Space. Demolished Thoughts serves as wonderful example of Thurston Moore's versatility. Tonally distant from Sonic Youth, his voice and aesthetic sense remain intriguing.


  1. Duke Performances in Durham, NC is presenting music from Thurston Moore's new acoustic album, Demolished Thoughts, in Reynolds Theater on February 7. Here is another interesting article about him--from our blog, "The Thread":

    "Thurston Moore Picks Opener from his Ecstatic Peace Imprint:" http://thethread.dukeperformances.duke.edu/2011/12/thurston-moore-picks-opener-from-his-ecstatic-peace-imprint/

  2. Thanks for passing on your write up. Now I've got to track down Hush Arbors (which will be easier with the links you included;-)