Ecstatic Peace!
Thurston Moore Groop, MV & EE, Tall Firs

Bring the noise! Martin Longley catches Sonic Youth's ever-youthful Thurston Moore in New York at the recent showcase gig for his Ecstatic Peace! imprint.

By Martin Longley

 Photo shows Thurston Moore (photo: Martin Longley)
Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore has been running his own Ecstatic Peace! label since 1993, defiantly trying to maintain its DIY vibrations. Last month, he threw a showcase nite at The Knitting Factory, and guess who got to be the headliner? Firstly, though, a few of his other bands took to the stage. Tall Firs might believe themselves to be inheritors of the Youth cape, but surprisingly Moore doesn't seem able to see their reality as pallid imitators that only ape the bare SY songwriting form, unable to grasp the concept of Sonic adventuring. As their set unwinds, the jangling clichés amass, and their drab vocal presentation is devoid of all charismatic tendencies. Faring far better are MV & EE, also known as Matt Valentine and Erika Elder, with their Golden Road band of backing musicians. This is rock'n'roll from a completely different era, a sludgily stoned psychedelic blues-raga trudge, getting heavier and heavier as their set progresses, Valentine sinking deeper and deeper into a Neil Young vortex. The pair have a dog called Zuma, as if we hadn't already guessed this...

Even though the above were listed, generously, above (and bigger) than Thurston's name on the bill, the label boss can't help but save his Groop until last, and wisely so, as the crammed crowd make excitable jiggling an impossibility. The makers of last year's Trees Outside The Academy view that album, and its gigs, as having acoustic properties, but that doesn't prevent Moore from turning up his hollow-bodied axe, going for a sound that still feels densely electric. I'd seen this Groop play a daytime show at the Apple store in SoHo, last October, and now it's available as a digital-only EP. The advantage of that performance was a crystal-clear sound-spread that proved rock music to be reliant not necessarily on upped volume, but on the dynamics that become apparent when the listener can hear all of the instruments involved, if you know what I mean. This Knitting Factory gig was much louder, losing some clarity, but gaining in head-scream attack, even though second guitarist Chris Brokaw was absent. Moore remains eternally, er, Youthful, despite heading dangerously close to that difficult age of fifty. Who'd think this, with his straw locks still flopping adolescently over his hip mug? Violinist Samara Lubelski is given more room to expand her wall of layered bowings, and once again, come encore time, Moore unpacks his electric guitar, like he's a recovering alcoholic, allowed one last blast before entering the clinic. Right now, Sonic Youth are touring Down Under, presenting their old Daydream Nation album in its entirety, doubtless fulfilling Thurston's lust for volume.
Peter Bacon posted 23 February 2008 (11:15:03)
Really enjoying your reviews from New York. Not quite as good as being there, but providing all the right kind of temptations to plan another transatlantic trip.
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