|Yoko Ono, Kim Gordon & Thurston Moore ≡ YOKOKIMTHURSTON (2012)|
Yoko Ono, Kim Gordon & Thurston Moore — YOKOKIMTHURSTON
Location: New York City/Northampton, Massachusetts
Album release: September 25, 2012
Record Label: Chimera
Genre: Avantgarde, Spoken Word, Experimental
01. I Missed You Listening 9:58
02. Running the Risk 9:38
03. I Never Told You, Did I 7:05
04. Mirror Mirror 9:46
05. Let's Get There 9:35
06. Early in the Morning 14:37
• Chris Allen Engineer
• Kim Gordon Composer, Paintings
• Bernie Grundman Mastering
• Thurston Moore Composer
• Emily O’Brien Art Direction
• Frank Olinsky Art Direction
• Yoko Ono Composer
• Ted Tuthill Assistant Engineer
• • YOKOKIMTHURSTON Primary Artist
Review by Fred Thomas / Rating: ***
• Like many valuable artists, Yoko Ono has long been a polarizing force, equally famous and controversial in circles of art and music. YokoKimThurston is a collaborative effort between Ono and two of Sonic Youth's lead creative forces, Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore. Though the trio worked together before this album, it marks the continuation of Gordon and Moore’s creative work together following the end of their 27~year~long marriage earlier in 2012. The six pieces on YokoKimThurston are almost all extended meditations, but they seek out different realms of the avant~garde spectrum to inhabit. Tracks like "I Missed You Listening" and "Let’s Get There" blend the dark guitar noise experimentation of the Sonic Youth contributors with Ono's tortured vocalizations. "Running the Risk" begins with a spoken word poetry collage from the voices of all three performers, eventually introducing caustic clean guitar sounds as Ono continues to offer Fluxus~styled word fragments and wordless vocal noises, eventually joined by Gordon. The atmosphere is dark and foreboding throughout most of the album's tracks. The trio explores the cross section of minimal guitar ambience, vocal improvisation, and poetry on "I Never Told You, Did I?," ending up in a badlands somewhere between the Halloween~themed moodiness of Sonic Youth's Bad Moon Rising and Ono's work on albums like Fly. The mood is loose and improvisatory for most of the set, and offers less to latch on sonically than it does a tense but somehow reassuring mood. The album's strongest point comes in "Mirror Mirror," as Fahey~esque acoustic guitar drones provide a pastoral backdrop for Ono's letter to herself and Gordon's reverberated grunts. The dark sprawl of "Early in the Morning" recalls ESP~Disk artist Patty Waters' extended and horrified take on "Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair" with Ono's pained syllables being dragged over Moore's damaged guitar scratches. The pieces are unquestionably noisy avant~garde excursions into raw sound, and thusly won't appeal to even most Sonic Youth fans, but those fans are used to this kind of atonal sidetracking from the band. This type of collaboration runs the risk of very quickly becoming an excuse for like~minded peers to hang out and jam slightly, but YokoKimThurston feels more focused and risk~taking than some weekend distraction between friends. Sonic Youth have never shied away from releasing indulgent noise jams in the name of art for art's sake, but this album ranks above the best of their non~rock experimentation, and adds a new dimension, with both Gordon and Moore stepping back to serve as supporting noisemakers for Ono's one~of~a~kind voice.
By Stuart Berman; September 28, 2012 / Rating: 5.0
• The most surprising thing about YOKOKIMTHURSTON is that it took until 2012 to happen. Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon have long been vocal cheerleaders for #TeamYoko, whether enlisting their daughter Coco to "cover" one of Ono's earliest scream experiments ("Voice Piece for Soprano") on 1999's SYR 4: Goodbye 20th Century, or penning fan~letters~as~song ("Ono Soul", from Moore's 1995 solo effort, Psychic Hearts), even though they don't seem to be big fans of Double Fantasy. Ono, for her part, has welcomed interaction with her various alt~rock progeny — most notably on 2007's indie star~studded remix collection Yes I'm a Witch — but the fact that an artist who averages a couple of new albums per decade has devoted a full~length collaboration to Kim and Thurston suggests that indie rock's perennial power couple must hold a special place in her heart. After all, what are Sonic Youth if not the modern manifestation of the avant/rock ideal that Yoko and her late husband John Lennon forged with Plastic Ono Band — a symbolic, spiritual kinship reinforced by the fact that Sonic Youth played their first gig, in the East Village, mere months after Lennon's murder uptown.
• But if a collaboration between these three was inevitable, its timing is uncanny: It represents Moore and Gordon's first musical release together since announcing their separation after 27 years of marriage. While it would be overly presumptuous to believe that Moore and Gordon's union here has any bearing on the future of their relationship, it's heartening that they've chosen to spend this moment of their lives with Ono, a woman who understands all too well the difficult dance between creativity and matrimony. As such, YOKOKIMTHURSTON is not so much a decibel~bursting showcase for the Queen of Noise and her unruly understudies as a conversation between intimates speaking in tongues and tangles — a voyeuristic glimpse into a private, discomfiting exchange.
• To underscore the clandestine nature of this meeting and instantly ward off casual onlookers, Ono spends the first two minutes of opener "I Missed You Listening" demonstrating the entire emotional range of her voice — from baby~cute cooing to demonvpossessed laughter to orgasmic ecstasy to the panic~attack terror of someone whose anesthetic has worn off mid~surgery. It's a move that immediately establishes the album's lawless environment. But, as the song jabbers past the nine~minute mark without introducing any significant changes, you realize the philosophy here is one of understated anarchy.
• Composed mainly of Ono's instinctual reactions to Gordon and Moore's spidery guitar scrapes, and of Ono's hushed, spoken~word interactions with Gordon —YOKOKIMTHURSTON feels both exhaustively sprawling and claustrophobically hermetic. Its six tracks average 10 minutes each, but don't so much chart an evolutionary course as stubbornly linger on a sensation of creeping unease. Even as the album turns considerably noisier and gnarlier in its final two pieces (the tortured mantra "Let's Get There" and the 14~minute apocalypse "Early in the Morning"), there's little in the way of release or resolution; it's the same sense of stasis projected on a louder, uglier scale. That said, the latter track acquires something resembling a dramatic arc if you interpret Gordon's repeated gnashed~teeth grunts of "my townhouse!" — and Ono's horrified reactions to them — as a comment on the price of an Upper West Side brownstone.
• These vague conceptual cues are all you have to work with in trying to comprehend the purpose of these pieces. The rare moments of clarity announce themselves with all the subtlety of a title card in a silent film: amid the hysterical shrieks of "I Missed You, Listening", Ono pauses to advise us, in rather self~explanatory fashion, "trust your intuition." But even some clearly spoken passages take time to reveal their logic: "Running the Risk" begins with the trio playing word~association with newspaper headlines as if engaged in some after~dinner party game but, as the contrast between Moore and Gordon's tabloid~worthy one~liners ("GOPs abandon babies," "It's all about the party," "secrets from a stylist") and Ono's more worldly concerns ("the biggest fish face a little risk… of being cooked") becomes increasingly apparent, the piece comes to encapsulate how frivolous chatter often drowns out serious discourse in our 140~character universe.
• Likewise, the hindsight significance of Moore and Gordon's participation in this project (which was recorded months before their split was made public) overshadows the real rocky~romance story of this album: that of Ono's relationship with her muse, which remains stormy even as she approaches her 80th birthday. It's all laid bare in centerpiece track "Mirror Mirror", in which Ono fesses up to her imperfections and insecurities while Gordon gives a disembodied but reassuring voice to the reflection staring back at her, their eerie exchanges playing out over Moore's deceptively serene psych~folk strums. At the track's outset, Ono plainly admits, "I'm an intrinsically nervous person, I'm nervous every day, every minute... but at the same time, I am an extremely relaxed person. Every day, every minute, I love being daring." YOKOKIMTHURSTON is nothing if not a noble but exceedingly arduous attempt to translate that perpetual state of splendid agitation into sound.
Birth name: Thurston Joseph Moore
Also known as: Mirror, Fred Cracklin
Born: July 25, 1958, Coral Gables, Florida, United States
Instruments: Vocals, guitar, bass, harmonica, synthesizer, piano, saxophone
Notable instruments: Fender Jazzmaster
• Raised in Bethel, Connecticut. Although he enrolled at Western Connecticut State University, he instead moved to New York City to join the burgeoning post~punk/no wave music scenes. At the beginning of his time in New York, he lived in an apartment below artist Dan Graham, eventually befriending him, sometimes using records from Graham's collection for mix tapes.
• Once in the city, Moore was briefly a member of the hardcore punk band Even Worse, featuring future The Big Takeover editor (and future Springhouse drummer) Jack Rabid. After exiting the band, Moore and Lee Ranaldo learned experimental guitar techniques in Glenn Branca's "guitar orchestras."
• 1988 Barefoot In The Head [with Jim Sauter & Don Dietrich]
• 1993 Shamballa [With William Hooker & Elliott Sharp]
• 1995 Klangfarbenmelodie & the Colorist Strikes Primitive [with Tom Surgal]
• 1996 Pillow Wand (with Nels Cline)
• 1996 Piece For Yvonne Rainer [with Yoshimi & Mark Ibold]
• 1997 MMMR [with Loren Mazzacane Connors, Jean~Marc Montera & Lee Ranaldo (Numero Zero Audio)
• 1998 Foot (with Don Fleming & Jim Dunbar)
• 1999 The Promise [With Evan Parker & Walter Prati]
• 2000 New York — Ystad [Thurston Moore, Lee Ranaldo, Steve Shelley, Mats Gustafsson]
• 2000 TM/MF [Thurston Moore, Marco Fusinato]
• 2001 Three Incredible Ideas [Thurston Moore / Walter Prati / Giancarlo Schiaffini]
• 2012 YOKOKIMTHURSTON [Yoko Ono / Thurston Moore / Kim Gordon]
© Kim Gordon/Photo Michael Lavine
Birth name: Kim Althea Gordon
Born: April 28, 1953, Rochester, New York, United States
Genres: Alternative rock, noise rock, experimental rock, no wave
Occupations: Singer~songwriter, producer, fashion designer
Instruments: Vocals, guitar, bass
Notable instruments: Gibson Thunderbird, Fender Jazzmaster, Gibson EB~3, Rickenbacker 4001
Biography by Linda Seida
• While some of the basic facts about Kim Gordon's life are a little fuzzy, there's nothing fuzzy about her influence on the music scene. Sources differ concerning the date and place of her birth, with some claiming she was born in 1953 in Rochester, NY, while others state that she entered the world in 1958 in Los Angeles, CA. None, however, deny her influence over rock, or the varied activities that have led some to describe her as a renaissance woman. Interestingly, she didn't start out as a musician and didn’t even study music. Gordon, who plays bass for Sonic Youth, records as a solo artist, leads the band Free Kitten, and also is part of the band Harry Crews, earned a degree in fine arts from Los Angeles' Otis College of Art and Design during the early ‘70s. She headed to New York a decade later. There she established a group called CKM, contributed to Artforum magazine, and participated in the Anover Art Festival. There she met Thurston Moore, the man who would join her and Lee Ranaldo to form Sonic Youth. She and Moore wed in 1984, and a decade later had a child, Coco Hayley Moore. In 1991, Gordon helped produce the album Pretty on the Inside for Hole. She headed to Lollapalooza with her band Free Kitten two years later, and branched out into directing in 1994 with music videos for "Divine Hammer" and "Cannonball" by the Breeders. She expanded her talents again a year later in New York when she launched a line of clothing she dubbed X~Girl, which she sold in 1997. Rolling Stone acknowledged her influence that same year when the magazine included Gordon in a feature titled Women in Rock. By 1999, the renaissance woman of rock began crafting a solo album and modeling in advertisements for Calvin Klein. VH1 acknowledged her influence by including her in its list of 100 Greatest Women of Rock. Although in interviews she has seemed leery of giving herself wholeheartedly to the cause of feminism, her songs often have decidedly pro~feminist themes when she addresses such issues as sexual harassment, rape, and the casting couch. She also addressed anorexia in a number titled "Tunic (Song for Karen)," which refers to the ordeal endured by Karen Carpenter, a woman who was just as prominent in the music world in her day as Gordon is now.
© Photo credit: Bertrand from Paris/Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth) at Rock en Seine Route du Rock, 17, August 2007 (23:10)
Born: February 18, 1933 in Tokyo, Japan
Biography by Steve Huey
• Few women in the history of rock & roll have stirred as much controversy as Yoko Ono. Although her romance with John Lennon was hardly the only factor straining the relationships between the individual Beatles, she made a convenient scapegoat for the group's breakup, and was repeatedly raked over the coals in the media for the influence she held over Lennon, both in his life and his music. Ono's own work as an artist and musician didn't mitigate the public's enmity toward her; to the average man on the street, her avant~garde conceptual art seemed bizarre and ridiculous, and her highly experimental rock & roll (which often spotlighted her primal vocals) was simply too abrasive to tolerate. That view wasn't necessarily universal (or true), and in fact the merits of her work are still hotly debated. Regardless of individual opinion, Ono has left a lasting legacy; she was an undeniably seminal figure in the history of performance art, and elements of her music prefigured the arty sides of punk and new wave (whether she was a direct influence is still debated, although the B~52's did admit to drawing from her early records). Moreover, between Lennon's assassination and the myriad drubbings she's taken in the press and the court of public opinion, an alternate portrait of Ono as a strong, uncompromising survivor has emerged in more recent years.
© Photo credit: Francesco Scavuilo
• Although her link with John Lennon will always be foremost in the public's mind, Ono's own life story is fascinating in its own right. She was born February 18, 1933, into a wealthy Japanese family in Tokyo. Her childhood was somewhat lonely and isolated; her father, a banker and onetime classical pianist, was transferred to San Francisco a few weeks before she was born, and her socialite mother was often busy throwing elaborate parties. She didn't meet her father until age two, when the whole family moved to San Francisco. However, they returned to Tokyo three years later to avoid the anti~Japanese backlash that was beginning in the United States in response to Japan's growing military expansionism. Ono was educated at the Gakushuin School, the most exclusive private school in Japan (the Emperor's sons were her classmates). She began classical piano lessons at a very young age, and later received vocal training in opera. In 1945, her mother took the family to the countryside to escape Tokyo, in time to survive the massive Allied bombing of the city; however, rich city dwellers were unwelcome, and the Ono children were often forced to beg for food.
• After the war, Ono's father transferred to New York, and she moved to the U.S. in 1952, where she studied music at Sarah Lawrence College. During this time, Ono became enamored of classical avant~gardists like Schoenberg, Webern, and especially Cage. She also began dating Juilliard student Toshi Ichiyanagi, who shared her interests and became her husband (over her family's objections) in 1956. The couple moved to Manhattan, and Ono made ends meet by teaching Japanese art and music in the public school system, among other sporadic jobs (she'd rejected her parents' wealth and the attendant lifestyle). The couple's Chambers Street loft soon became a hot spot in the nascent downtown New York art scene; Ono frequently staged "happenings" (sometimes in partnership with minimalist composer LaMonte Young) that featured music, poetry, and other performance, and John Cage used the loft space to teach classes in experimental composition. During this period, Ono's art was largely conceptual, sometimes existing only in theory or imagination; she created a series of instructional pieces suggesting nonsensical activities, which were later published in book form as Grapefruit in 1964. Her first solo show was at George Maciunas' gallery in mid-1961, but the same year, Ichiyanagi and Ono separated, with the former returning to Japan. That November, Ono performed at the Carnegie Recital Hall (not the main hall), an event that featured a miked~up toilet flushing at various points throughout the show. It received negative reviews, however. With her parents' encouragement, Ono returned to Japan in March 1962, seeking a resolution to her marriage.
• Once in Japan, Ono became lonely and depressed; not only was her marriage effectively over, but she received more negative reviews for her performances in conjunction with John Cage. After an overdose of pills, she was committed to a mental institution and kept under extremely heavy sedation. Fortunately, she was rescued by Anthony Cox, a jazz musician, film producer, and friend of LaMonte Young's who had traveled to Japan hoping to study calligraphy with her. Cox threatened to publicize the callous treatment Ono had received at the institution (her sedative dosage was abnormally high), and secured her release; the two became romantically involved, and when Ono became pregnant, she made her divorce from Ichiyanagi official and married Cox. Their daughter Kyoko was born in 1963, but Cox's sometime volatility put a strain on the relationship, and they separated in 1964. Cox returned to New York, and Ono followed a few months later, after which the couple reconciled.
• Once back in New York, Ono resumed her art career to considerable attention from the avant-garde community; by this time, George Maciunas had become the leader of an art movement dubbed Fluxus, whose philosophies were compatible with (and even influenced by) Ono's, prizing abstraction and audience interaction. Ono performed at the Carnegie Recital Hall for a second time in early 1965, and debuted her seminal "Cut Piece," in which audience members were invited to cut off pieces of her clothing with scissors. In September 1966, she traveled to England for an art symposium, and "Cut Piece" helped make her a sensation in the London art world. In November, she got her own exhibition at the famed Indica Gallery, which was ardently patronized by John Lennon. Lennon was impressed by her work, particularly a piece where the viewer was required to climb a ladder and hold up a magnifying glass to read a small inscription on the ceiling that said "Yes!" The two read each other's writings, and Lennon financed an exhibition in which Ono painted various everyday objects white and cut them in half. In the meantime, Ono and Cox had begun making experimental films, usually centered on the repetition of simple movements; their fourth effort, Bottoms, consisted of 365 close~ups of nude buttocks (the idea was to fill the screen with motion when the subjects walked). British film censors were scandalized, and Ono became an even more notorious public figure with "Wrapping Event," in which she wrapped the lion statues beneath Nelson's column in Trafalgar Square with white cloth and tied herself to one. She also sang in concert with pioneering free jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman at the Royal Albert Hall. The avant~garde was becoming increasingly suspicious of her visibility, which only intensified when Ono and Lennon began having an affair that spring.
• Fans of Lennon the pop musician couldn't understand what he saw in Ono, but it's important to know that Lennon was an art student prior to falling in love with rock & roll, and had long harbored an interest in avant-garde art. The difficulty with understanding Ono's art was that its impact came largely from her ideas; from putting new contextual frames around everyday objects, or asking her audience to complete an experience with their own imaginations. For example, most of Ono's pieces were white, so that the audience could imagine their own colors (or, in the case of her all-white chess set "Play It By Trust," to create ambiguity); even her so~called "Blue Room" was all-white (viewers were supposed to stay in the room until it turned blue). Her first musical composition, 1955's "Secret Piece," existed only in her mind (she was unable to transcribe the notes of a bird song effectively), and, in 1968, she announced a 13~day dance festival that would take place entirely in the imaginations of anyone who participated. In 1971, she took things a step further by presenting an imaginary art exhibit at New York's Museum of Modern Art, and filmed the spectators as the real works of art. As an artist, Ono dealt in concepts, not craft (i.e., practiced, developed technique and training in a specific medium). Her work wasn't what most people recognized as art, which was why many Beatles fans dismissed her as a talentless charlatan. Lennon, on the other hand, saw someone who could help him find a new direction.
© Photo credit: Iain Macmillan/Lenono Photo Arctives
• Lennon and Ono's first musical collaboration was on the highly experimental Unfinished Music, No. 1: Two Virgins, which was recorded around the beginning of their affair and released toward the end of 1968. None of Lennon's fans knew what to make of any aspect of the album; not the odd snippets of noise, faint dialogue, and sounds from the immediate environment, and not the fully nude photographs of the couple on the record jacket, taken from the front and rear. They were further dismayed with Lennon's participation in Ono's bizarre public events, such as appearing together in black plastic bags as a statement about judging by appearances. (Ono herself long suspected that fans' hostility was due to their discomfort seeing Lennon with a woman who was not only strong~willed, but of a different race.) After Ono's divorce from Cox, the couple married in Gibraltar on March 20, 1969, and took advantage of the publicity surrounding their honeymoon to hold "Bed~Ins for Peace" in Amsterdam and Montreal (the latter of which produced the single "Give Peace a Chance"). Cox was later able to gain custody of Kyoko, pointing to Lennon and Ono's drug intake, and disappeared with the child, whom Ono would not see again for 25 years.
• The second Lennon/Ono album, Unfinished Music, No. 2: Life with the Lions, was released not long after their wedding; it spotlighted Ono's cathartic, wailing vocal improvisations, as well as addressing her first of several miscarriages. It was quickly followed by The Wedding Album, one side of which featured more Ono improv, the other of which consisted of nothing but the couple calling each other's names. Over the next few years, Lennon and Ono continued their peace activism, and entered primal~scream therapy with Dr. Arthur Janov, which began to inform both of their individual careers. In 1970, they each recorded an album backed by the Plastic Ono Band; predictably, Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band was the less structured, more avant~garde of the two. Ono followed it in 1971 with the double~LP Fly, which featured more conventionally structured songs as well as her typical experimentalism. In 1972 the Lennon/Ono protest~song album Sometime in New York City was released, and was roasted for the simplicity of its sentiments. Ono returned in 1973 with two of her strongest solo statements, the brutally intense, explicitly feminist Feeling the Space and the more varied Approximately Infinite Universe, both of which featured less musical involvement from Lennon. Perhaps that was symptomatic of the problems the couple had been having; they split up for a year and a half toward the end of 1973, exhausted from their constant time together and their battles with U.S. immigration over Lennon's threatened deportation. Ono recorded a more accessible album, A Story, in 1974, but it was shelved and remained unavailable until 1997.
• The couple got back together in early 1975, and Ono was finally able to bear a child, Sean Taro Ono Lennon, who was born on John's birthday, October 9. Lennon dropped out of show business for several years to raise his son and effectively become a househusband, while Ono took charge of his business affairs. Although she contributed some of her most accessible songs to his 1980 comeback album, Double Fantasy, she did not return to solo recording until after Lennon's assassination on December 8, 1980. The harrowing, grief~stricken Season of Glass was released the following year to highly complimentary reviews. Ono followed it in 1982 with the more hopeful, pop~oriented It's Alright (I See Rainbows), and had a minor success with the single "Never Say Goodbye." Released in 1985, Starpeace continued that optimistic trend, and teamed Ono with producer Bill Laswell and other downtown New York scenesters, but failed to connect as her previous two efforts had.
© Photo credit: Jayne Wexler
• Ono gradually returned to visual art, creating installations and also exploring photography. Interest in her previous work led to several retrospectives over the course of the '90s, and in 1992 Rykodisc reissued her complete back catalog on CD, as well as the six~CD box set retrospective Onobox. In 1995, she recorded a new album for Capitol called Rising, which featured son Sean and recalled the harsh experimentalism of her early recordings. The same year, her musical play New York Rock debuted off~Broadway. In 2001 another new album, Blueprint for a Sunrise, arrived, updating the feminist tone of Feeling the Space while being somewhat more accessible. V2 reissued several of her albums once again in early 2007. Also during this year, she issued Yes, I'm a Witch. For this album, she assembled a number of previously released tracks and collaborated with artists such as Cat Power, the Flaming Lips, DJ Spooky, Jason Pierce, and many others. In 2009, Ono re~formed the Plastic Ono Band with Sean and added collaborators such as Yuka Honda from Cibo Matto and members of Cornelius; she released the album Between My Head and the Sky on Sean's Chimera imprint.
© Author: Stig Nygaard/Thurston Moore performing with Sonic Youth at the Roskilde Festival 2005. © Author: David Shankbone/Thurston Moore at the September 14, 2008 Brooklyn Book Festival in New York City.
|Yoko Ono, Kim Gordon & Thurston Moore ≡ YOKOKIMTHURSTON (2012)|