We have to get over it now. Despite being at the height of their experimental-noise-palette-made-pop powers when they split, Sonic Youth will never regroup—a shame on so many levels. What SY fans, then, can only hope for is the somewhat-new packages of past material—unreleased live and studio recordings—that shed real light on who they were as a unit and what we miss by not having them around. From the stuff of In/Out/In and its focused preponderance of “post 2000-era band material in especially zoned/exploratory regions,” there seems to be plenty yet to be unearthed. And yet this collection leaves the listener wanting so much more.
In the time of In/Out/In’s instrumental-only setting, Kim Gordon, Thurston Moore, Lee Ranaldo, and Steve Shelley (for this compilation) acted more freely than they had in their avant-punk and post-no-wave past. Of course, guitarists Moore and Ranaldo had started as part of Glenn Branca’s six-string army—something you can feel through the noise tangle of “Social Static” here—and were always playing to the skronky outskirts of Jupiter during their jams. But throughout these same years bracketed within In/Out/In, sonic-shapeshifter Jim O’Rourke and oblong bass guitarist Mark Ibold drifted through the SY and brought with them a gently whimsical sense of free jazz’s breadth and reach to the quartet, as well as the tension of Krautock. That means the tender touch and breezy openness of “Basement Contender,” the start-stop roboticism of “Machine,” and—better still—the collision of both the windy and the incendiary on the incrementally explosive “Out & In.”
If In/Out/In is the result of SY’s curatorial brain trust (Ranaldo, Shelley) dipping their hands into the goody bag of unreleased, untamed Youth material, just imagine what deeper dives will bring.