Review Summary: Drone of the Wild
Kim Gordon’s role in the evolution and sustainability of both noise rock and contemporary experimental rock cannot be understated. As a major driving force behind Sonic Youth and a multitude of other projects, she has had quite the hand in developing and furthering the more unorthodox side of rock and roll. These acts broke the conventions and molds held standard by many, expanding upon inventive ideas from artists such as The Velvet Underground, Patti Smith, and Public Image Ltd. Examples of such can be seen in Sonic Youth’s explosive sound and unconventional tunings. This mentality can be compared to that of the drone music, which even shares some influences with Gordon and noise rock.
Gordon, upon the end of Sonic Youth in 2012, would unite with Bill Nace, a improvisational and experimental musician, to marry her other works in noise rock and no wave with the fuzzy, entrancing tones that dwell and echo for the entire length of each track. This sound used by Body/Head is dense, yet subtle, and gives the duo a lump of clay
which they craft and mold into their own creation. This idea is center-stage in the group’s first LP, titled Coming Apart
, whereas this sophomore record takes a much more stripped back approach. Any resemblance of traditional songwriting is gone, giving the much shorter The Switch
a more organic and free-form ambiance. Guitar feedback soaks the atmosphere, bleeding into the repetitive guitar foundations and white noise on songs like “Change My Brain” and “Last Time” until they reach a fulfilling climax, creating enthralling textures towards the end. The cascading sounds flow thunderously and effortlessly, giving way to interesting sonic abnormalities and muffled vocals from Gordon. The flow of this record also allows one to reach an abnormal state of relaxation, and its simplicity allows the mind to wander, yet its subtle layer of fog influences the mood and vibe of the thoughts.
Although an interesting venture into the mouth of psychedelic and ambient drone, The Switch
lacks in the field of staying power. Crippled by its own aimlessness, the record does not use any of its runtime to play on the listener’s expectations or surprise the listener beyond the realization of Body/Head’s take on spacy wanderings. This is not to say that the duo’s work is superficial or lacking in unique, creative textures, but that its own open-endedness leaves a bit to be desired. No efforts are made in reaching a certain goal and the progress made in evolving each track has no effect on the next song, making the sudden brashness starting at 4 minutes and 38 seconds on “Reverse Hard” feel the slightest bit unearned.
Despite my own problems with the album’s means of progression throughout its 5 songs and 38 minute runtime, I’d be lying if I told you that the sonic fuzz here isn't satisfyingly enveloping. Gordon and Nace both utilize distortion, delay, and echo to build a sound both full and fulfilling. Their knowledge and understanding of impromptu and inventive music is proven here, as well as their foresight to prioritize tone and mood. While this means sacrificing structure and logical advancement, these flaws aren't striking enough to take one out of the experience. This said, the album’s simplicity means that, while enjoyable, The Switch
hardly rewards multiple listens. As a standalone experience, it’s one caked in an atmosphere that's enthralling, free, and surprisingly warm.