Thurston Moore on “By the Fire” | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, June 19th, 2024  

Thurston Moore on “By the Fire”

Ineffable Worlds

Nov 09, 2021 Issue #68 - Japanese Breakfast and HAIM (The Protest Issue) Photography by James Loveday (for Under the Radar) Bookmark and Share

To record his latest solo album, By the Fire, Thurston Moore, co-founder of the legendary rock ‘n’ roll band, Sonic Youth, compiled three different sessions from stints he spent in the studio in 2019 (two in London and one in Paris). Each, Moore says, had a “different nature” to them. The idea for the new record was to create an album similar, in a way, to The Rolling Stones’ Exile On Main St., which itself was comprised of different sessions. By the Fire feels as much like a sonic tornado as it does a contemplative spell made up of tracks ranging in length from four to nearly 17 minutes.

“I took the songs that I thought were the strongest from the different sessions and sequenced this narrative that had a bit of a specific story,” Moore says. “It comes out of the gate with more joyful sonic tunes and then it gets a bit more contemplative, darker, experimental.”

To make a record with the range and sonic magnitude of By the Fire, there must be a great deal of letting go coupled with at least a modicum of control. How one balances those two poles, however, is up to the artist. But that balance is something Moore thought about when composing the album.

“I think about balancing [control] with the idea of being a conduit and channeling these muses, these inspirations coming from ineffable worlds,” he says. “In free improvisation, you’re allowing this information to come through you and you express it to the best of your own personal ability. There’s a certain responsibility in that to where it doesn’t become noise jamming.”

Moore says he continues to learn from this balancing act, this dynamic of controlling the sounds he makes while also letting them come through him. He has a lot of experience doing so. Sonic Youth became famous for its often genre-less, sometimes formless compositions. But, like the splatter paintings of Jackson Pollock, while anyone can throw crap at a wall, it takes a keen mind to know when it’s personally or publically valuable. Finding himself in the process of this discovery, Moore says, is a great challenge and great fun.

“That’s something I’ve found I continue to learn from,” he says. “I love playing in situations of free improvisation but I also love playing in situations where I’m writing rock ‘n’ roll tunes. Those have equal value for me.”

By the Fire does not read as some art school project. It’s genuine art, through-and-through. It’s varied, proficient, splendid. It’s the demonstration—similar to a jazz player like Miles Davis—of someone who has mastered his craft to such a degree that songs of great value can tumble forth in a session to be gathered and put to wax for sale not long after. Like Bitches Brew or Kind of Blue, By the Fire challenges as it inspires. It’s a unique amalgamation made by a specialist.

“I wanted this record to have more of a dynamic voice,” Moore says. “It goes off into what I think is kind of a new and hopeful place.”

[Note: This article originally appeared in the digital version Issue 68 of Under the Radar’s print magazine, which is out now, as a bonus feature. This is its debut online.]

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