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(Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth
& Bill Nace)
Creative alchemy doesn’t just happen in the studio or in the practice space; so much of it is the product of solo time with one’s instrument, learning how body and wood and electronics fuse, and of subconscious processes as one lives one’s daily life—picking up the ambient noise of the world outside, listening to others’ work, talking through ideas with friends. For Kim Gordon and Bill Nace, time together these days is limited to live performances and recording, so they’ve got to bring all their magic to every encounter. Lucky for us, these are two experimental sorcerers of significant renown.
Their debut album together as Body/Head, Coming Apart, from 2013, was more of a rock record—heavy, emotional, cathartic, spellwork in shades of black and grey. The Switch is their second studio full-length, and it finds the duo working with a more subtle palette, refining their ideas and identity. Some of it was sketched out live (if you’ve not had the fortune of seeing them in that natural environment yet, see 2016’s improvisational document No Waves), but much of it happened purely in the moment. Working in the same studio and with the same producer as Coming Apart, here Body/Head stretch out, making spacious pieces that build shivering drones, dissonant interplay, Gordon’s manipulated vocals, and scraping, haunting textures into something that feels both delicate and dangerous. Less discrete songs than one composition broken up into thematic movements, a slow-moving narrative that requires as much attention and care from the listener as it did from everyone involved in its creation, it is a record that sticks around after it’s done playing.
�This is Nace’s favorite of Gordon’s guitar work; she’s truly come into her own as a guitarist, having built up her confidence through solo shows. The way the duo work together, you’d never know they spend so much time apart; on The Switch, their vision and focus feel truly unified. If Coming Apart was dark magic, The Switch works with light, though it never forgets that these approaches are two sides of the same coin, and that binaries—black/white, near/far, emotion/analysis, body/head—are made to be broken open, and that the truth of things is in the energy between.
It’s an anomaly to make a record created out of the pleasure and desire of simply making music together. A record with no commercial aspirational location. The new duo record from John Truscinski (drums, synths) and Steve Gunn
(guitars), «Bay Head», makes it look easy, carving out a space where none existed before with assurance, resonating beautiful along the way.
If I were forced to put what John and Steve play into a genre I would simply call it “music.” There’s a quality of timelessness to it without being nostalgic that is impossible to manufacture. It comes from their years of playing together based on a formula of chemistry. Bands are fragile ecosystems. The best ones have a melding that results in a musicality that otherwise can’t be found in a melody or lyric, or an effect pedal. While «Bay Head» is the third record the duo has recorded together, John has played drums and helped shape the songs and the sound on all Steve’s more song-configured albums. Their bond is tight, unique, and effective.
As an instrumental record «Bay Head» has no literal voice. It doesn’t need it, as the constant flow between the drums and guitar describe fully and without a narrator. Steve’s guitar leads you along a contemplative path that describes an inner monologue that is more expressive than if there were words. Some of the guitar parts are worked out and then set free, improvised in the playing. But it’s hard to tell. It all sounds deliberate. «Bay Head» is the accumulation of the duo’s years of playing music together where each can guess where the other is going to go next. The cover collage by their longtime friend Bill Nace reflects what is both abstract and figurative about this unique musical collaboration.
As I drink my morning coffee, I use the Gunn-Truscinski Duo's records as a way to make my way into the day. As I am writing, answering email and the like, I find that the spirit of their music matches the gentle light and morning coolness that breeds inspiring thoughts before the LA sun blasts it all away and the day’s minutiae take over. Basically, «Bay Head» is great music to procrastinate to!
-Kim Gordon, Los Angeles, August 2017
531 North 12th St.
Philadelphia, PA, 19123