Body/Head (Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth & Bill Nace)

In Conjunction With Ars Nova Workshop

Body/Head (Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth & Bill Nace)

Axis: Sova, Fully Glazed

Fri, November 11, 2016

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 8:30 pm


Philadelphia, PA

$16.00 - $18.00

Sold Out

This event is all ages

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Body/Head (Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth & Bill Nace)
Body/Head (Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth & Bill Nace)
Body/Head are an electric guitar duo comprised of Kim Gordon (CKM, Sonic Youth, Free Kitten, etc.) and Bill Nace (X.O.4, Vampire Belt, Ceylon Mange, etc.) They began working together in various loose formats a few years ago, but the Body/Head concept evolved more specifically in early 2012.

Initially their approach was largely instrumental—lattices of interwoven feedback rainbows, with bits recalling everyone from Heldon to Keiji Haino. They often performed against a backdrop of slow-motion film projection, creating a dream narrative of undeniable power and visionary reach. Kim’s voice began creeping more into the mix, and the vocals are now an intrinsic part of their musical architecture. They have even started writing and playing “songs”, compositionally distinct from their purely aleatory origins, but still featuring lots of built-in improvisational space.

Body/Head have recorded a single for Dennis Tyfuss’ Ultra Eczema Editions, a tour EP for Nace’s own Open Mouth Productions, and released a collaboration with Dead C’s Michael Morley through Feeding Tube Records. Their debut LP, Coming Apart, will be released by Matador Records on September 10.


The title of the first track to Body/Head’s debut album confronts listeners with a fundamental paradox: “I Can Only Think of You in the Abstract.” Thought – as opposed to experience – is necessarily an abstraction. This tension exemplifies the psycho-acoustic logic of drone music. Thinking entails memory. It drags you back in time, away from the present, away from the immediacy of perception. And time exacts a heavy toll on the conventional musician: scales, the metronome, repeating passages until they can be played to perfection. In contrast, Kim Gordon insists she never learned to play guitar or bass. That suggests a different set of priorities. Bill Nace is the other half of the group. Their format is two guitars plus vocals. They always improvise. Gordon sings, but treats her voice much like an instrument by running her mic through a guitar amp and a string of effects boxes. Everything revolves around the drone, the improvisational constant.

A drone can be an extended note or chord. Of course, it has to begin and end like any other note or chord, but if it goes long enough, it addresses the listener’s attention differently. Rather than becoming an object of attention, droning makes the listener the object of its effect. Melody and phrasing become less important. The concreteness of the sound asserts itself in terms of timbre, texture and volume. Thus, the sound assumes a spatial dimension. It abolishes abstraction. Instead of movement between passages, the musical dynamic becomes one of modulation. The two-guitar format offers a textbook case of this relationship: while one provides a steady tone or repetitive motif, the other modulates. Delta blues guitar, especially open-tuning slide work, offers a rough model for this. Another model could be the synthesizer which produces tonalities by combining wave forms. Different oscillations result in different tones. This analogy, of course, only goes so far because guitar tones are intrinsically more complex than, say, sin waves.

Droning is more a question of sensibility than it is virtuosity. One starts somewhere – at any point, then responds to it. Loopers and effects pedals such as distortion, delay, chorus and fuzz units open up a wider array of possible modulations plus seemingly amorphous sounds, ranging from raga-like total immersion to symphonic swells. Effects change the function of the equipment. The transparent reproduction of sound is no longer the goal. Instead the character of sound includes the technology, namely the amplifiers and speakers, that generate it. Twisting a knob or pressing a button takes you to another place. Yet your body is there. Repetition is key. The same sound comes back slightly different. The modification is ongoing. Despite–or perhaps because of–amplification, it achieves a state that is concrete yet meditative.

Gordon’s vocals toy with what might a song might be – or how it might disintegrate. Sometimes they emerge as a childlike singsong, laid over a skein of guitar work. Other times, her delivery is provisionally bluesy, testing the legacies of what this or that inflection might residually harbor. More often, the singing floats ethereally, distilled into a disembodied echo. Song brings words into play. Words, in turn, knit otherwise errant sounds into a cohesive whole that begs to be remembered and repeated. “Black Is The Color,” for example, glimpses a nightmare transcendence that goes to the ineffable core of what goes by the name of love. The word collides against itself: “…I love my lover…” In “Murderess,” Gordon monotonously intones the phrase “…by the sea…” over a racing, Giorgio Moroder heartbeat, while in “Last Mistress” – another female persona – she flirts with Yma Sumac trills offset by cataclysmic orchestral crescendos.

Hearing drone music live has a ritualistic aspect. Drone musicians always preach to the converted. The question of quality is beside the point, because the assembled multitude wants nothing less than to open itself up to a collective experience, the possibility of simply being present together. Droning enables the audience in some way to be itself – which contradicts the implication of almost every message or image mass culture aims at it.

Recording an improvisation and putting it onto CD offers a comparatively more private, individualized experience. Even so, it serves a common reference point for otherwise far-flung fans, a starting point for a common discourse, abstract though it may be. Here, even trivial choices like headphones versus speakers can be key. One puts the music inside your head; the other, outside your body. For me, listening to these recordings means dropping everything else I might be doing – not necessarily for the sake of concentration, but just to be able to co-exist with the music. But it’s not always the same for everyone. I played a cut for one of my students. She said it would be great music to study by.

John Miller
Professor of Professional Practice
Department of Art History, Visual Arts Concentration
Barnard College/Columbia University
Axis: Sova
Axis: Sova
Just a little more than a year since last transmission and suddenly the rotation to Motor Earth signals a new day in the life and anti-life of Axis: Sova! We expect our music to reinforce perceptions of time as an arrow bolting forward, one way, into the future. But where’s the symmetry in that? Everything else in physics is two-way traffic; that’s the Faustian Universe that Axis: Sova scans for its rock. Where past, present and future are all pulling together, known together — as if we could get a clean link to that other hemisphere in our brain. We’re at the edge of the edge, how much further to the fringe?

The fuzzing, burning film stock of Early Surf was like a solarized sound of discontent and not-belonging, a state of dissonance within a state of reverberating vocals, circulatory systems of guitar and test-tube rock beats. The mix was TWEAKED, slaved over in an endless night. Motor Earth trips that trend further, rife with percolating boogie, suicidal punk shredders and cavernous rock, but this time, it’s a planet cleared of sonic brush so as to cleanly reflect the star it orbits and the moon it mirrors.

A key to this was working with a wider tape-head — Sova’s former four track fantasia is an ashy otherworld half remembered, replaced on Motor Earth by a broader expanse. Buoyant low end is well-defined rather than inferred, bearing out the robo-rock propulsion that drives Axis: Sova through space. Guitar grit remains profound, but distinctly un-smeared; here, the sound of the four-track is used as a tincture, an exotic accent to the flavor.

Another thing was building a band vibe. See, Axis: Sova began as Brett Sova’s one-man operation, building up and stripping out parts from new and repurposed equipment, pitting meat against machine to find interplay, equilibrium. But touring the last two years as a band blew things wide open. Motor Earth demanded that same visceral, live approach, so Axis: live band mainstay Tim Kaiser’s input on guitar was necessary and utilized. Along with him, others from the Axis: inner circle visited to transmit one sound or another, telescoping Sova’s terms of psychic distortion into clearer sight lines. Studio takes were live in duo and trio style, even, driving deeper into a spontaneous countryside than ever before. All the while, alien hands working the boards for the first time.

Motor Earth flames into action with the band ablaze, two guitars finishing each other’s sentences before expanding in the ether, only to catch fire and plunge back to earth, reentering with steel-melting velocity. This is the moment of “Love Identity,” the keys to Motor Earth’s ignition. Past its album-opening arc of floating feedback, more songs reveal themselves in tightly wound chugs. “(Like An) Intruder” is a slab of classic snarl, “Eyes Have It” dances a serrated, two-note tumble. The flip stretches out — “Violent Yellow” swirls with paranoia before detonating into syncopated dual riffs; “Routine Machine” lopes a hot lead over a damaged progression, meditating like a funeral procession to album’s end.

Motor Earth finds Axis: Sova assimilating back down on Earth, soaking in the flawed humanity and broken systems of the world, the repetitive nature of days and days, the course of years. Who’s getting off on the mundanity? Kiss the Axis and you will find a parallel world of time. You’ll find the human collisions that occur as we run from society’s dreams of total control, causing sprays of rust from the decaying undercarriage. It’s the meeting of the reptilians and the beast within — the good, odd vibes resonating in late nights and the blown-ear mixes: the fractured togetherness of us all, revolving on Motor Earth!
Fully Glazed
Guitar-wall ecstasy achieved thru relentless monotony. dead horse-beating trio bliss that simultaneously channels live VU boots, PSF-label woolliness/amp melt & Bo Diddley-beat West Coast psych duncery reduced to its lowest possible common denominator.
Venue Information:
531 North 12th St.
Philadelphia, PA, 19123