Gig of the week: Thurston Moore and Michael Chapman at Colston Hall, February 8
For 30 years Sonic Youth stood at the forefront of indie rock. From the punk revolution of the Eighties to the alternative rock of the Nineties and then beyond, while other bands from the same era were doing reunion tours and greatest hits albums, Sonic Youth were putting out records like Murray Street and Rather Ripped, with songs like Reena and Anti-Orgasm, which felt as essential as anything that had preceded them.
They are – or were – a beloved institution, and so it was more than just a vicarious celebrity heartbreak that was universally felt when members Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon announced their separation in 2011, after 27 years of marriage.
To own every Thurston Moore record would be impressive. Alongside some 16 Sonic Youth records, the guitarist and singer has released something like nine noise/drone records, 12 collaborative records, a handful of free improvised records, plus a handful with other bands he's fronted over the years. His work with Sonic Youth is without a doubt the most well known, though that's not to say objectively the best; his work with free jazz saxophonist Evan Parker, Wilco's Nels Cline, Elliott Sharp and Pavement's (and Sonic Youth's) Mark Ibold are all highly acclaimed, though within more underground circles.
All of this leaves out his solo work, the third album of which was released in May 2011. Demolished Thoughts differs from the two records that preceded it in that it is entirely acoustic. On paper, this doesn't seem so sexy; an acoustic record from a noise-rocker 30 years into his career.
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Though, much like Dinosaur Jr's J Mascis and his fantastic Several Shades of Why LP, it is an incredible testament to the consistent quality of Moore's songwriting that even without the usual wrecking ball of percussion and distortion backing him up, he can create something that both recalls the dissonance and groove of SY recordings whilst also being relaxing and beautiful in a completely new way.
It was Moore's interview with Michael Chapman in a 2009 issue of The Fretboard Journal that brought attention to the Yorkshire-born singer-songwriter, who has drawn comparisons to John Fahey and Robbie Basho in the way avant-garde musicians have adopted his primitive tradition to enrich their experimental music.
Moore is a long-time fan of the singer and, in 2012, contributed to a covers album entitled Oh Michael, Look What You've Done, which also featured contributions from Lucinda Williams, Meg Baird (Espers), William Tyler (Lambchop, Silver Jews) and Hiss Golden Messenger.
Obviously, to say he's a musician's musician would be an understatement. His influence on the American underground is like that of Judee Sill; immeasurable, yet hardly spoken of.
Much like Moore, his back catalogue is extensive, though it stretches right back to 1969 when he released debut album Rainmaker. Since then, he's been known for his quirky, Bowie-esque songs with psychedelic, jazz and folk-rock influences, and has released records on Decca (Bowie, Ella Fitzgerald, Buddy Holly), Mooncrest (Fairport Convention) and Black Crow Records (Bert Jansch).
The night is bound to be a special one, particularly for fans of the American underground and British folk.
The two musicians also plan to collaborate on stage, following solo sets from both.