Though the vibrant cover art might suggest a punk-rock record, Body/Head’s latest album’s artwork is much more reflective of the emotions and feelings behind the music. Though Kim Gordon and Bill Nace’s collaborations have never been compromising, they really push their audience this time around. With music that feels closer to a score than music you’d sit down and listen to, there is a merit to the madness if you can endure the fierce sound-crafting.
With a menacing beating, the guitars slowly come out of the woodwork on “Last Time” as the flow of wavering effects brings them in like a spirit from another world. Though Body/Head really make you wait for any semblance of continuity, the underlying bass purr keeps the song ominous and foreboding all the way through. As Kim Gordon’s vocals call out like a fierce spectre of her own, there’s a distinctly death-like crawl to the sound. After Gordon’s vocals fade out, the feedback hits a peak and every amp is set to shriek as the loose piece closes out with a piercing cry.
Though “You Don’t Need” certainly carries on this vague and creepy spirit of feedback manipulation and taking every tone to a new world, there’s something much more focused here. As the song’s feedback loops and distortion warbles play out like some vintage sci-fi soundtrack, Gordon’s vocals contextualize them with a more human sensibility. Though the track is equally as unhinged and drone-driven as others, there’s a rawness to the core of the track that makes it feel alive, even as it fades into pure noise in its final moments.
While there’s certainly a power to much of what Kim Gordon and Bill Nace do on these songs, there’s often a direction of some sort to it. “In The Dark Room” proves the most abstract of all the pieces here, and despite its short runtime, it’s more comparable to an abrasive Johann Johannsson score than something overtly structured. Because of this, the song is a difficult listen to be sure, and one that is so harsh and unbridled that many will likely find it too hard to get into.
The more rapidly shifting tides of “Change My Brain” ironically make this even more noticeable, as this 10+ minute track is much more potent in its opening moments than “In The Dark Room” is across its entire run. As the track’s shrieking seemingly hits a peak, Gordon’s vocals come in and out, as she appears to guide the raw force of their sounds in her short cuts in. When the track starts to fade out, the layers strip back to reveal a tender melody that really stands out on such a vicious record.
Though it’s first few minutes certainly are a little too indulgent on noise-play vs. a listening experience, “Reverse Hard” is strangely one of the most inherently musical songs of the album. Near the mid-point, guitars fly out chaotically while Gordon’s vocals tremolo out like she’s being erased from reality. As the music slowly comes back alive there’s a subdued beat that finds her cllawing her way back out more aggressively than before.
Words by Owen Maxwell