Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore, the two members of Sonic Youth whose personal split precipitated the band’s breakup, are set to perform in Chicago within days of one another. But the projects that bring them here are very different, and while it’s tempting to regard them in light of SY’s dissolution, that’s a bit shortsighted; both parties have been playing in other settings for decades.
Lately Gordon has been working with guitarist Bill Nace under the banner of Body/Head. They’ve just released two strong LPs on which her wordless moans invest resonating guitar harmonics and arcing feedback peals with an air of eldritch ceremony. These records are strong predictors for what she’ll play with White/Light, the local ambient duo of guitarist Matthew Hale Clark and keyboardist-engineer Jeremy Lemos, whose music is similarly free-form. Lemos was Sonic Youth’s soundman for years, so his ability to respond empathetically to Gordon’s improvisations is assured.
Though Moore sang most of Sonic Youth’s songs, his outside solo projects and collaborative ventures have tended towards extremes of improvisational noise and acoustic balladry. With Chelsea Light Moving, he reclaims rock & roll. Drummer John Maloney, bassist Samara Lubelski and guitarist Keith Woods give Moore’s songs a punkish lurch that distinguishes them from the stream-lined flow that Sonic Youth could so easily achieve, and their lyrical references to poet Frank O’Hara, author William S. Burroughs and Germs frontman Darby Crash forge connections to a 20th-century lineage of creative opposition. Chelsea Light Moving’s setlists haven’t included any Sonic Youth material, but this is as close as you’re likely to get to the sound of SY’s art-punk synthesis.