By Ben Allen
After more than thirty years recording music, Sonic Youth’s front man has created a stunningly beautiful acoustic solo album.
There were signs Moore was moving in this direction. Trees Outside the Academy, his 2007 solo record, featured acoustic guitars in (shockingly) standard tunings and Sonic Youth’s last release The Eternal had quieter moments like album closer “Massage the History.”
Thurston hasn’t released a collection this intimate and relaxed, though. Whereas Trees Outside the Academy featured everything from noise to electric rockers to atonal piano experiments, Demolished Thoughts is a much more cohesive effort. The album features mostly acoustic guitar, hushed vocals, violin and minimalistic percussion.
Opener “Benediction” contains the most instrumentation. It slowly rolls along as Moore’s whispered/spoken vocals relay a feeling of lost love written from a female perspective.
“Circulation” is the most upbeat track, but still feels relatively calm due to the lack of percussion.
“Orchard Street” is a standout with its infectious acoustic guitar line accompanied by puzzling, but intriguing lyrics about blood, tears, semen and a “free jazz hotel.” The song concludes with sprawling, layered guitars and dissonant violin building to an apex before gently fading out.
The final track, “Space,” contains some incredibly intricate guitar parts and three full instrumental minutes before Thurston begins his ruminations on outer space. The subtle ambient background sounds (reminiscent of the Beatles track “Tomorrow Never Knows”) intertwined with Moore’s guitar make the title completely appropriate.
There are a number of guests on Demolished Thoughts, including Samara Lubelski (violin), Beck (synth, vocals) and Mary Lattimore (harp).
In fact, the production by Moore’s longtime friend Beck Hansen is almost as essential to the album as the songs themselves. Beck allows Moore’s songs to move and breathe while simultaneously instilling pop-oriented sensibilities that aren’t too drastic or obvious of his intentions. Beck’s own albums Sea Change, One Foot in the Grave and Mutations were largely acoustic and have similarities in sound and feel to Demolished Thoughts.
This is exactly the type of record Thurston Moore should have made at this point in his career. On it, he manages to stretch the limits of what can be accomplished with an acoustic guitar and, in doing so, manages to stray from the “folk” categorization. A logical step forward in the career of a restless artist, it also creates excitement at where Moore will head next. – (8/10)