Wednesday, September 25, 2013

An Evening at the MCA with Kim Gordon's Body/Head

Kim Gordon and Bill Nace are in the last stretch of their brief tour in support of their debut album as Body/Head, Coming Apart. I saw Thurston Moore’s current band Chelsea Light Moving at the Empty Bottle in March, and caught a thoroughly underwhelming performance by Lee Ranaldo and Dust at the Pritzker Pavilion (admittedly not the best venue) over the summer. Coming Apart has been slowly revealing its charms since its release last month, and I’ve already checked in with Gordon’s former bandmates this year, so I decided to head over the Museum of Contemporary Art last night to see her and Nace perform (now I just need to figure out what Steve Shelley has been doing since he quit Disappears and then I’ll maybe be able to make myself feel a tiny bit better for never going to see Sonic Youth before they split up).

Before the show, I spent about the length of Coming Apart wandering through the Daniel Clowes exhibit at the MCA, feeling alone in the way that you can only experience with noise-cancelling headphones placing a barrier between you and everyone around you. Alone, either completely or in that headphone-simulated way, is the ideal way to listen to that record. It’s a shattered, lonely, haunting seventy minutes, and having to grapple with yourself while you grapple with the music brings out the album’s maximum potency.

After their hour long performance in the theater three floors below the Clowes exhibit, I’m pretty convinced that I was right about how Kim Gordon’s new band is best experienced, or at least how I get the most out of it. That is by no means a slight against Gordon and Nace. Both played extremely well, bridging the tunes on their album with slabs of feedback and noise, never once letting up to allow silence to creep in for more than a second or two at a time. Gordon in particular used a few bass techniques from the expected (playing her bass with a mallet) to the unexpected (thrusting the amplifier plug in and out of the bass in a way that evoked arrhythmic sex, causing some really exciting feedback), and Nace proved an almost telepathic counterpoint to Gordon.

But unlike Chelsea Light Moving, whose show back in March was so exciting that their album now seems paltry by comparison, Body/Head’s performance reinforced the record’s insular charms. This is not music for a theater surrounded by other concertgoers, with a distracting, overwrought slow-motion video projected behind them, and it’s a shame that I came away from their otherwise very good performance feeling that something had been missing.

Again, all of this is a matter of my personal expectations and the experience with the record that I brought with me into the theater last night. The opener Gate with Tom Carter performed a forty-five minute long sweeping avant-garde duo guitar piece that I enjoyed much more precisely because I went into their set with no expectations. When Body/Head tours behind their next album, I’ll be sure to check my expectations at the door (or hold off on hearing the record until after the show).

(Note: These music videos are excerpts from the video accompaniment that they projected on the huge screen behind them during their performance)

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