Yoko Ono / Kim Gordon / Thurston Moore YOKOKIMTHURSTON

[Chimera; 2012]

Styles: free improvisation, contemporary art gallery soundtrack
Others: Meredith Monk, SYR, Diamanda Galás, Ikue Mori

Unbalanced interaction, disproportionate impetus: a pair of compelling forces that have constituted a colossal dynamical system over the last three decades, determined by a permanent flux of energy that never headed toward an equilibrium but, on the contrary, was propelled by the lack of it. Instead of a Daoist metaphysical interplay, Gordon and Moore’s functioning resembled the laws of entropy: a disordered entity pulled by gravitational potential, prompting irreversible events that pervasively flowed in several sonic directions and slowly collapsed against conventional pop forms. These macro-forces, as their cosmic counterparts, had to eventually consume themselves in the long-term. But on this album — their la(te)st collaboration — their role was shadowed by a larger abstruse character, acting as catalyst for a more complex reaction.

Two somber sides of femininity: a demented maternal authoritarian figure and a cryptically seductive femme fatale. The former leads the path to an uncomfortable zone by intoning nonsensical chants and litanies (language as a coddling device); the latter tempts the listener with vocal tricks set in motion by subtle movements of fleshly expression and sexual coercion. In “Mirror Mirror,” an awkward narration launches a double gaze trapped into a darkened reflection: the female dialogue (Kim’s inner silky opaqueness versus Yoko’s outer spiky shine) finally comes to terms with the unstable structure through a rather conventional harmonic sequence.

An effective counterpoint of two masterfully-manipulated instruments (prepared, extended, augmented) jumping playfully from place to place throughout the timbral spectrum. Ono’s exasperating vocal presence (howls, shrieks, screeches) provide distant echoes of primal therapy, while Moore’s guitar-as-synthesizer logic destroys any formal aural expectations while counteracting the octogenarian’s overprotective dominion (“I never told you, did I?”) and dispelling any Oedipal associations in the process.

This Trinity — the Mother, the Daughter, and the Holy Spirit — preaches annularly (“Running the Risk”), slowly building each micro-landscape until it summons a frantic whirlpool of events — somehow depicted in the album cover. Despite the plethora of sonic possibilities and combinations, chaos is never achieved, revealing a tacit order without clear guidelines. Yoko, Kim, and Thurston coexist and act in a purposeless space reaching moments of true consubstantial cohesion and consistent heterogeneity, with some custom-tuned chords and frameworks appearing momentarily and helping to reach a moderate and not-too-risky orgasm.

Free improvisation, as an anti-genre (lacking conventions but already in the process of becoming formulaic), constitutes a perfect communication channel for these performers in which they craft sound at its purest form. But the minor acoustic space created by this set of skilled veterans is subjugated to the rules of a larger political space that has been imposed by the avant-garde tradition along with some trends in academic music: controversy is already part of the game. Thus, YOKOKIMTHURSTON displays an issue that affects several contemporary aesthetic forms when they become institutionalized: no matter how transgressive, shocking, or committed an artistic statement can be, it still remains enclosed within the safe, whitewashed, antiseptic confines of the art gallery under the sheltering halo of “high-culture” values, for the admiration of a see-but-do-not-touch enlightened elite.

Links: Yoko Ono / Kim Gordon / Thurston Moore - Chimera

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