“SONG FOR EWE” is the feature where artists & music people beloved by VELVET SHEEP choose an obscure song they’ve been listening to that day. Today’s guest is an absolute barnstorming guitar hero of mine, someone whose records I have been dutifully buying and gainfully enjoying since I started writing the original zine 3 decades or so ago. Unmistakable in sound, and sheer in presence, Thurston Moore, as a founder of one of my all-time favourite bands, Sonic Youth, has cast a friendly shadow in my life, sometimes in reality, when craning to see around him as Free Kitten played the Rough Trade shop in Covent Garden. I’ve been lucky enough to see SY play live circa “Washing Machine”, which if you’ll pardon the pun was a high watermark (if you don’t like puns look away now, this feature is called “song for ewe” right?), and now I’m just as likely to bump into my man in London as Thurston has been living over here in the vicinity of Stoke Newington, Hackney where he’s even opened a pop up record shop called “Ecstatic Peace Library” partially named after his long time own label.
A prolific songwriter and player, Thurston Moore dovetails between ensemble music pieces that opus-like can go anywhere from Sun Ra via Albert Ayler to echoes of erstwhile collaborators John Cage, Glenn Branca, John Zorn or Fluxus; to more traditional rock band songs, albeit with the prerequisite dropped-D dissonance and plaintive yet wilfully just off-kilter melody that you might expect from his rapturous Sonic Youth discography. From electro-acoustic avant-garde soundscapes to harmolodic workouts to free jazz “moonshots” via street fighting cheetah punk, Moore is a man of multitudinous and prodigious talent.
With a brand new album “By The Fire” on The Daydream Library Series that pickpockets all of Moore’s styles, and which will please all his fans (take it from me, a satisfied customer), I’m beside myself with delight that we’ve finally got him to these pages – welcome to Velvet Sheep, Thurston Moore!
Last year I bought a copy of a symphonic triple bill called “Spirit Counsel” replete with not so much songs as extensive movements: full-on immersive spectral mood music. This year, Thurston Moore and the group he has carefully assembled over the last few years – Deb Googe (My Bloody Valentine) on bass and backing vocals, Jon Leidecker aka ‘Wobbly’ (of Negativland) on electronics, James Sedwards on guitar, and Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley alternating on drums with Jem Doulton, have got another band album, and it’s an absolute monstrous multi-tentacled grower. It’s called “By The Fire” and it starts off with a triptych of songs that could well be lost Sonic Youth classics – to my ears there’s echoes of “Candle” in opener “Hashish”, “Chapel Hill” in “Cantaloupe” crossed with a strafing of the Stooges “Down on the Street”, and the almost horror score chimed intonation of “Inhuman” in “Breath”.
Check out “Cantaloupe”…
From then on in, it takes a beauteous turn of epic songs, that meander like insistent tributaries flowing into the estuary of Moore’s expansive, often other-worldly sonic palette. He loves a long song does Thurston, and there are four that comfortably break the ten minute mark without ever out-staying their welcome. Dare I say it “Siren” is a love song of hitherto unmined proportions that has touched my heart in a way most unexpected.
And I wasn’t sure what to expect from Thurston’s “song for ewe” choice other than something that genuflects the genius of some brilliantly artful players – and so it is, without further ado, this is Thurston Moore’s “song for ewe”…
“THE GIANT HAS AWAKENED – Horace Tapscott Quintet
Tapscott lived in LA all through the 60s as a music teacher and cultural custodian of African-American art. He formed the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra where a number of significant players (Don Cherry, David Murray, Butch Morris, Stanley Crouch) were engaged in studying and celebrating the music of the Pan-Afrikan diaspora, particularly spirit jazz. This was the only major label session (1969) he conceded to, with the agreement he had final say on the entire production. It is an incredible piece of music with Tapscott’s piano and Arthur Blythe’s saxophone raising the roof.
Tapscott wouldn’t record again until 1978 when he began to release a score of LPs on independent labels. A song about rising consciousness in a state of political disenfranchisement – as necessary today 2020 as it was in 1969, if not more so. – Thurston Moore”
THANKS VERY MUCH THURSTON, AND TO SARAH LOWE AT FIFTH AVENUE PR
The new Thurston Moore album “By The Fire” is out on 25th September, and you can get it here
Here’s another hit from the album…”Hashish”…