BODY/HEAD (yes, those capital letters are intentional) are a duo consisting of Bill Nace (whose previous acts include X.O.4, Vampire Belt, and Ceylon Mange), and the legendary Kim Gordon (of Free Kitten and Sonic Youth). This album is a live record which documents a single show in 2014 at the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Those familiar with Kim Gordon’s work as bassist and singer in Sonic Youth for nearly thirty years will know that she has managed to keep a foot in two camps simultaneously, that of leftfield rock and improvisation. Those only familiar with her work on the more mainstream album releases she has been involved may find this release confusing, but it makes sense within the work she has produced over more than thirty years.
While this is a live album of only three tracks, this is neither a quick cash-in nor a conventional live album. It features 2014 single ‘The Show Is Over’ and three tracks from their 2013 debut as BODY/HEAD Coming Apart, with ‘Abstract’ and ‘Actress’ now being presented as a medley. In the spirit of their work, this is not simply a live recording of their recorded work, but rather, that the songs that have been recorded here are the basis for further improvisation.
So, the crowd sound appreciative, but how does it work for the casual listener? I’m not sure that improvised music is much for the casual listener by definition, but it is an intriguing proposition. Like much music that may be considered avant garde or experimental, it does have to be given time and attention to listen to what is at work here. Sure there are moments of what may be noise and feedback, yet there are moments of real beauty, too. These aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, either. It makes for an atmospheric document, which it must be said was well recorded and without overdubs.
On their aforementioned debut, BODY/HEAD covered two Nina Simone songs in a style which not only turned the originals on their head, but almost inside out as well. Their live dates have been fairly limited so far, but on the basis of this, there’s a sense that this is a pairing that does not intend to repeat itself. While No Waves may not find a huge audience, there’s more than enough to keep those interested listening and examining here.
No Waves is out now on Matador