Review and photography by John Bentley

Thurston Moore is best known as a member of Sonic Youth, the avant-garde experimental rock band from New York who helped turned electric guitar music on its head in the 1980s and 90s. The band employed unusual guitar tunings and modified instruments and made full use of feedback and electronic noise, while at the same time writing great tunes and lyrics. Since Sonic Youth, Moore has pursued a solo career, producing a variety of different music. Last time I saw him live (2013) he was playing a solo acoustic gig with Michael Chapman. His solo career and tastes have been varied, including several collaborations (eg. Yoko Ono) and even some relatively conventional musical output. However, now he is back in avant-garde mode and performing with a multiple-guitar band, resulting in a sound perhaps not altogetherunfamiliar to Sonic Youth fans.

The Thurston Moore Group at Leeds Brudenell Social Club 16 October 2019

Tonight is an experimental evening of music and support band Rattle fill the roll perfectly. From Nottingham, Rattle are, unusually, a two drum-kit outfit, consisting of Katharine Brown, drums and vocals, and Theresa Wrigley, drums. Their blurb says they do ‘beats doing other things’. There was a time (mostly back in the early 1970s) when most ‘serious’ bands felt the need to do drum solos and many of us dreaded the moment when the other musicians exited the stage for a ciggie while the drummer bashed the drums for 10 minutes or more. Fortunately percussionists have got more interesting since then, as evidenced by Rattle tonight. Through several separate pieces Rattle demonstrate subtle rhythms, resonances and tones, with the last piece building to a climax, then ramping down to a celestial blissful ending.

Rattle at Leeds Brudenell Social Club 16 October 2019

The Thurston Moore Group features My Bloody Valentine’s Deb Googe on six-string bass, former Sonic Youth member Steve Shelley on drums and James Sedwards on guitar. The ensemble’s latest album is ‘Spirit Counsel’, a set that includes just three extended pieces of music. Without the aid of a microphone (as there are no vocals involved tonight) Moore just about audibly explains that they will be performing one extended instrumental piece from that set, ‘Alice Moki Jayne’, which is dedicated to three inspirational women: (jazz-maestro) Alice Coltrane, (visual artist/musician) Moki Cherry and (political poet) Jayne Cortez. Each of the women was able to shine in their own right outside the sphere of their male partners of major artistic stature: respectively John Coltrane, Don Cherry and Ornette Coleman.

The Thurston Moore Group at Leeds Brudenell Social Club 16 October 2019

The Thurston Moore Group at Leeds Brudenell Social Club 16 October 2019

With Moore and Sedwards playing twelve-string guitars, the piece is frequently reminiscent of Sonic Youth in their ‘Daydream Nation’ period. Over about 70 minutes it shifts from stage to stage, with frequent crescendos marking points of change in the set. Rhythms play a major part in the progression of the piece, with Steve Shelley visibly giving the drums his all. Throughout, the musicians face each other on stage and interact, with Moore the ‘conductor’ directing the music. The music could be a soundtrack and, indeed, for some of the tour the band has used a back-projection film, but not tonight in Leeds.

The Thurston Moore Group at Leeds Brudenell Social Club 16 October 2019

Moore could quite easily have toured and played a selection of much-loved Sonic Youth favourites, but he is not living on past glories and instead he gives his audience an evening of bold experimental music from a dynamic and innovative band brimming with ideas.

The Thurston Moore Group at Leeds Brudenell Social Club 16 October 2019

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