Body/Head, “The Switch”

Body/Head
The Switch
MATADOR
6/10

Something wicked this way comes—which is not unexpected, if it is one Kim Gordon manning the wheel. Her ongoing Body/Head project with Bill Nace, an experimental jazz-rock guitarist noted for not respecting structural authority, has a new record that takes just seconds to start sending fearful chills up the spine.

Everything about The Switch is “wrong”: ten-minute songs, unapologetic deconstructionism, atonal…well, everything. The opening track “Last Time,” along with the following salvo, appropriately named “You Don’t Need,” seem designed to tear down the distractions of quick-hit social media mania, and induce long, heavy, trance-like states. Their guitars are eerily tuned (a classic Sonic Youth trademark), and harsh drones fade in and out as if sliding into death’s grip, then quickly escaping it.

Gordon’s already haunted vocals are applied here for a maximum sense of detachment. This is not music that wants to play on your emotions—rather, it wants you to leave the nuisance of them behind altogether. It is intensely cerebral, in a way that will leave your brain in veritable shambles. Mace and Gordon want a listener to work hard to see art.

There’s a track titled “Change My Brain,” for example, that’s ten minutes and forty-two seconds of annihilated artistic preconceptions. After about five of those minutes, should you lapse into the right frame of mind, you could almost take the song for a new kind of classical music: layered, dramatic, and intellectualized to an unsettling degree. And if you give yourself over to it (and keep the lights down low), you’ll eventually find the escape hatch to a new way of thinking…and listening, for better or worse.

The obvious still has to be said: this is not for the faint of heart. But as the closing minutes of final track “Reverse Hard” reveal, Body/Head is not actually beyond offering up a hint of melodic enticement, however buried it is amongst the blur of psychedelic screech. Sometimes you have to go all the way to the edge to know where you stand in the middle.

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