You’d be hard pressed to claim that bassist-guitarist-singer-icon Kim Gordon’s tenure in the band she co-founded, Sonic Youth, was confining in any way. The once-noise-based ensemble, though born during NYC’s no wave movement, often used supple, ringing, even hooky melody as a hidden tool in its kitbag, but more often than not stuck its landing with all-things dissonant and atonal with ease and pleasure. That said, once split from the Youth, Gordon seems to be more unbound at present by any melodic and tonic convention, experimenting often with the drama of drone aesthetics in her Body/Head unit with multi-instrumentalist Bill Nace.
For their newest recording, the self-titled Body/Dilloway/Head with fellow avant-garde journeyperson Aaron Dilloway, Gordon and Nace continue along their self-imposed, of-the-moment, improvised music path. Now, however, their drone circumstances are ripened and gentler, elongated (the album consists of only three tracks) and made softly malleable by Dilloway and his ever-present manipulation of 8-track tape loops. In combo with the human voice, electronic and organic sounds and spliced tape delays, skint guitar-tangled melodies are tamped, plaintive, and almost breezy on “Goin’ Down,” or mechanical, stammering, gurgly, and filled with backward-moving voices on “Secret Cuts.” As the latter track moves forward into a stereo-panning swirl, you can hear Gordon’s voice cut up and lost as if caught in the Black Lodge of Twin Peaks. Mesmerizing stuff, Dilloway is a brilliantly ticklish addition to the always vexing Body/Head soundscape vibe.
Since the release, Gordon’s returned to more familiar (though hardly conventional) territory with the echo-perplexing vocals and repetitiously rocking groove of “Grass Jeans.” A single in support of abortion charities at a time when a woman’s right to choose is again being ridiculed by an old-guard Texan court, “Grass Jeans” roughhouses its way through a taut melody with familiar tingling guitar lines and Gordon’s always-haunted vocals. It’s the first “rock” track Gordon’s released since her underappreciated 2019 solo jam, No Home Record, and—like her two recently discovered and dropped Sonic Youth albums, Live in Austin 1995 and Live in Dallas 2006—benefits Fund Texas Choice, a non-profit that pays for Texans caught in a financial bind to travel to abortion clinics when needed. Though “Grass Jeans” is brief, delicious, and sets the stage for upcoming Kim guitar/vocal tracks between this and the two newly released Youth rarities, you can’t help but miss NYC’s most torn-and-tattered quartet.