Maybe the title to the Sonic Youth axe man’s new solo album should be “Demolished Preconceptions”, because that’s exactly what he does here. Moore’s previous solo album have been interesting, but they didn’t stray that much from the Sonic Youth template…loud, distorted guitar-workouts that were more interested in texture and drama than melody.
So, what a surprise to hear Thurston strumming away on an acoustic guitar like the lost son of James Taylor. Actually, that is an unfair comparison. Moore’s music, even unplugged has a lot more going for it than anything Taylor has done recently and it really is in another league, musically.
Although Moore plays all the guitars and does all the singing, he does have some help here. Along with occasional bass and percussion (no full drum set heard) from Bram Inscore and Joey Waronker, Moore is accompanied by violinist Samara Lubelski and harp player Mary Lattimore. Together they make a wonderful sound that is at times pastoral and at others dark and foreboding.
The other main collaborator here is Beck Hansen, who adds occasional synths, handles the production chores, and most importantly, helped out with the string arrangements (Beck’s father, David Campbell has been arranging strings on rock & pop albums for years).
The end result is one of the most satisfying listening experiences I’ve had in a while. Moore’s guitar playing is unique and inventive, especially now that he is working outside of his comfort zone. The violin, harp and acoustic guitar interact beautifully and the overall mood is not unlike Beck’s 2002 acoustic-based Sea Change.
Moore turns out to have a real gift for melody and poetry and both come to the fore here. Often the songs begin with long, meandering instrumental passages before finally getting around to the lyrics, but the wait is always a pleasure in itself and worth it.
One of the most surprising and enjoyable releases of the year.
Click here to listen to Circulation from Demolished Thoughts: