Review by Temmuz from Secondhand Underpants
I remember seeing this random post online back in the day, a man holding a placard that said “Kim Gordon for president”. I think it was during the 2016 USA elections, but not sure. It made perfect sense to me that certain (probably secretly emo) Americans would want her to be the next president as she has been a figure of force, a figure that represents the activity of defying things on an unclear abstract level, without specifying what is subjected to that defying action.
I think reading Gordon’s bitter memoir Girl in a Band (be prepared for loads of name droppings from the art world, obvs.), combined with Gordon’s first solo album “No Home Record” can make these confusing sensations around her being part of Sonic Youth a bit clearer for us (I like imagining Gordon writing a satirical book called Band with a Girl, this time from the perspective of the band, “dealing with” having a girl in the band).
Being a Kim Gordon follower is something to do with attitude; it is like saying “I don’t like most music” rather than “I like all sorts of music”. It is about being cool, or rather, trying to be cool. And it is sharing this attitude that would make you obsessed with Gordon’s album “No Home Record”.
First of all, it is very electronic, not just in terms of the choice of instruments, but also Gordon’s vocals and the general vibe is electric. Most songs are made of – sometimes scattered, sometimes in order – distorted guitar and digital sounds, paralleling a strand of experimental art that values abruptness rather than progression.
I was not surprised when I read about how Gordon named this album after Chantal Akerman’s film “No Home Movie”. While Akerman’s film was the last film she made before her death, this is Gordon’s first solo album.
This type of correlative connections is more important than narrative in Gordon’s creative work. In this album, most songs use acoustic drums or/and drum machines, some disorderly digital sounds, uneasy guitars and banging bass parts that are dodgily connected, like a messy electric circuit that could end up in a fire, if you are not careful.
I love how a thing like Airbnb becomes a song topic in this album without a specific political context. Even though the song is more of an ode to Airbnb than a critique, it is expressed in a somewhat painful way; we are listening to the limits of Gordon’s vocal cords along with electric guitars that are as forced and abruptly fluctuating as Gordon’s vocals. “Airbnb could set me free”: we all know, it is the opposite.
Then the song “Paprika Pony” follows, and the song sounds like a dark lo-fi hip-hop in the form of a palimpsest where you could take the end of the song and glue it to its beginning, make a Möbius strip with it. Deliberate undecided-ness, subtlety in distortion and non-linear writing are things you find in these songs.
“Murdered out” is a sexily disturbed disco/not-really disco song with the most recognizable structure in the album in terms of approximating indie-rock; it is familiarity made weird. The continuous long high pitch of the sample used in this song and the Gordon’s not-nice vocals make the whole thing sound like she is trying to hypnotize us.
The following “Don’t Play it Back” is very similar to that feeling, another möbius strip, and we are supposed to get hypnotised, again. Gordon’s un-poetic poetic-ness and the effects used on her vocals are almost making fun of some oppressive things. Nothing is ostensibly offensive in this song, but some bullies out there who aim to take away people’s freedoms should still get offended:
“Golden vanity, you can pee in the ocean, it is free”.
While she seems to promote freedom, there is also this scary feeling in what she is vocalizing while the bossy bass sounds are fluctuating and creating an ambient sound that resembles underwater soundscape. This album sounds like it is more about the process of making art, than anything else, especially making art in an alienating space. Her followers might as well be in her way, we might as well be subjected to her dismissal.