Narration, limbo, communication and coolness in “In / Out / In” by Sonic Youth on #neuguitars #blog #sonicyouth
“The lead guitar launched into a long solo, portraying youth in the language of electricity. Catz danced, in a hundred variations, the last pangs of the moth burned by the candle flame. Catz kicked the bassist’s butt and laughed and arched her arms and jumped over three feet into the air, spun around, kicked the lead guitar boy another kick as she came down, slammed her knees shut, clapped her hands landed on the stage, traced serpentine paths with her neck, shook her buttocks and shoulders in a double provocation, and never lost her rhythm. Drums and bass fell silent, in dramatic expectation. Catz’s great golden eyes widened even more. Her sweat had stuck to her platinum hair. Her face lost all uncertainty, and she nodded to the man in the mirrored glasses; then she sang.”
John Shirley, City Come A-Walking, 1980
Sonic Youth are back, but perhaps they never left. On 11 March 2022 on the blog / magazine The Quietus this article, written by JR Moores, was published: Reissue Of The Week: Sonic Youth’s In/Out/In where Moores, I rightly believe, wrote:
“Despite, or perhaps owing to, the fact that a reunion tour isn’t likely to happen anytime soon, Sonic Youth have had the best separation that fans could have hoped for. Much of the time, it hardly feels as if they’ve even gone away. We are basically living in the state of limbo that we used to inhabit between the “official” studio albums that would pop up every one-to-three years from 1982 to 2009. When waiting for those “proper” records to appear, fans’ thirst for all things Sonic Youth would be quenched by various side-projects, live albums, archive releases, reissues, solo works, poetry books, art exhibitions and collaborative performances where Kim, Thurston, Lee or Steve would make an atonal racket while somebody who was still a card-carrying member of the radical underground blew a saxophone like billy-o or sawed a skateboard attached to a contact mic in half. The limbo is now permanent. It still ain’t such a bad place to be.“
What does this new album of unreleased or allegedly so, takes bring us,? Very little, almost nothing, nothing that a fan did not already know or could not wish for. “In / Out / In” gives us 5 pieces, some of which are already present in other compilations, cassettes, limited editions, to which the generosity of this band has long accustomed us. It must be said that Three Lobed Recordings did a really good job, assembling five tracks together with span a period of about eight years, from 2000 to 2010, maintaining a good musical homogeneity. Here is the list:
“Basement Contender” – Recorded by Lee Ranaldo in Northampton, MA in 2008. Performed by Kim Gordon, Thurston Moore, Lee Ranaldo and Steve Shelley.
“In & Out” – Recorded at soundcheck in Pomona, CA with additional recording and mixing at Echo Canyon West in Hoboken, NJ by Aaron Mullan in 2010. Performed by Kim Gordon, Thurston Moore, Lee Ranaldo and Steve Shelley.
“Machine” – Recorded and mixed by Aaron Mullan in 2008. Performed by Kim Gordon, Thurston Moore, Lee Ranaldo and Steve Shelley.
“Social Static” – Recorded and mixed by Sonic Youth at Echo Canyon (NY) in 2000. Performed by Kim Gordon, Thurston Moore, Jim O’Rourke, Lee Ranaldo and Steve Shelley.
“Out & In” – Recorded and mixed by Aaron Mullan at Echo Canyon (NY) in 2000. Performed by Kim Gordon, Thurston Moore, Jim O’Rourke, Lee Ranaldo and Steve Shelley.
Actually “In / Out / In” gives us something new, it gives us an entirely instrumental music album by SY, the first if you don’t consider the eccentric and cunning “Goodbye 20th Century”, where they interpreted, a their way, pieces of contemporary music composed by John Cage, Steve Reich, Christian Wolff, Cornelius Cardew, Yoko Hono, Pauline Oliveiros and others. Here the SY are simply themselves: they sound like Pink Floyd put on estrogen, with long improvisational rides reminiscent of the Grateful Dead and attesting to the excellent level of internal cooperation and musical telepathy achieved by the band members. “In / Out / In” is basically an electric contemporary chamber music record that doesn’t sound like goodbye, but more like a continuation of an epic past, in the wake of the alternative music boom of the 80s / 90s, for which they were largely responsible. The record that the GodspeedYOu! Black Emperor have not yet managed to record. Five pieces completely free from the song form, where maximum space is given to improvisation and interplay. Five pieces where speed, desire, sweat, machine oil, electricity come together in a form that still exudes that cool energy that the SY have always accustomed us to. After all, the SY have never left, they are still with us, albeit in a dispersed and distant form, engaged in a myriad of personal projects with a high cultural, informative and communicative density. Their cultural legacy is immense, like their sound, which immediately identifies them as a group and not as soloists. Unlike most of the legendary rock bands, once the group experience ended, they didn’t stop. They continued to draw personal communication parables, remaining the cool, intelligent and avant-garde personalities they have always been. While continuing to periodically provide their fans with new ideas both through reissues, merchandising and new recordings of old concerts from their website and bandcamp, they have skilfully, and perhaps naturally, transformed themselves into four cultural incubators, four elegantly deconstructed influencers, perfectly aligned with a entertainment society dense with communication. Yes. I believe that “In / Out / In” sanctions the definitive presence of a limbo, the consecration of a permanent mystical aura elaborated by a perfect narrative. I don’t think they will return to perform together on a tour, but after all, I don’t mind at all.