Wednesday, August 16, 2000

Sonic experiments

Posted By on Wed, Aug 16, 2000 at 12:00 AM

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Actually, Kim Gordon’s vocals only get two stars. Her guitar playing contributions suffused with Ikue Mori and DJ Olive’s quasiambient noise force are what earn this recording veneration in the world of sound sorcery. SYR 5 begins by taking hold of your hand and pulling you gently through “Olive’s Horn,” a voiceless sonic campground with electronic owls and crickets, enveloped by outer space and recollections of Forbidden Planet. Once safely inside this looping, intro-sonant communion, “International Spy” saunters in underneath Gordon’s little-lazy-girl vocals. This works in and of itself, but the repetition of this same singing style over the next few tracks turns tedious and suspect, especially next to performers who are taking great care to fully vary and explore all that they know. Come on, Kim!

Ex-DNA drummer Ikue Mori has carved herself a respectable niche in experimental percussion. Her use of sampling and adapted drum machines fuses smoothly with DJ Olive’s spinning expertise and Gordon’s spontaneous guitar compositions. The resulting ear-worthy environment travels from a mic’d bucket of fighting insects and layered agitations to a guitar driving down a highway of effects to classic, electro-space standbys to all the living sounds that contact us from just below the surface of the recognizable. Occasionally, the vocals mix more successfully. With “Stuck on Gum,” they ride along atop a one-note rope of interlacing noise and rhythm, with Gordon lyrics that she might try listening to herself: “Make it better/make it wetter/wetter, make it wet wet wet/Stuck on gum/I’m stuck on gum.”

Overall, SYR 5 is a well-executed assemblage of sound movements that loop, breathe and scrape, checking in at just under an hour of first-class audio experimentation. It constitutes the first recording on SYR with occupants other than Sonic Youth proper, a trend that hopefully will continue.

Anita Schmaltz writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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