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Chelsea Light Moving, Village Underground | reviews, news & interviews

Chelsea Light Moving, Village Underground

Chelsea Light Moving, Village Underground

Few surprises at the UK debut of the new band from Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore

Chelsea Light Moving protect themselves from the Thurston Moore contagion. From left to right: Samara Lubelski, Moore, Keith Wood, John Moloney Eva@EcstaticPeace

“We’re Chelsea Light Moving, we’re from London.” Coming from Thurston Moore during the first UK outing of his post-Sonic Youth combo, that’s amusing. Not only are the rest of the quartet American, Moore himself remains the definition of New York cool. And Chelsea Light Moving sound as American as apple pie with his trademark slash-and-dive guitar and conversational vocals. “It’s Sonic Youth,” declared a voice to my left.

With Sonic Youth on hiatus after the break-up of his marriage to band and life partner Kim Gordon, Moore’s new band adds another string to his already hard-working bow. Solo recordings, collaborations, publishing and his label are supplemented by Chelsea Light Moving, whose eponymous album was issued recently.

Detached from the studio and with two-thirds of the album given an airing, it was possible to work out who did what. Moore’s guitar foil Keith Wood uncannily replicated the style of who he was playing opposite: the swoops, the discordant clangs triggered by open tunings, the frantic scrubbing. Two Moores for the price of one. Yet instead of cancelling out the reason for the band existing at all, it sharpened the focus and forced the audience to confront the fact that, even divorced from Sonic Youth, Moore is a true original whose voice, in a band context, can’t fail to dominate.

The on-stage manifestation is rougher than on the album, but still pretty faithful to what had been recorded. With little improvisation, there were few spontaneous fireworks despite Moore’s wild lurching during “Empires of Time”. A new song, “Sunday Stage” sat well with the album tracks as did an interpretation of the John Donne poem “The Ecstasy”. Lift-off was really achieved when Moore and bassist Samara Lubelski locked in on “Burroughs” and the rock-out section of “Empires of Time”. These were when Chelsea Light Moving suggested where their future lies.

The band’s name is taken from a removal company run by Philip Glass and Steve Reich

Chelsea Light Moving are a sort-of supergroup. Lubelski has played guitar and violin in drone-psyche folkniks Jackie-O Motherf***er as well as recording solo. Drummer John Moloney is borrowed from fractured folk-spaceheads Sunburned Hand of the Man and has previously collaborated with Moore. Wood makes cracked country/folk solo as Hush Arbors, and has also played with Sunburned Hand of the Man. Both Moloney and Wood have cropped up on Moore’s Ecstatic Peace! label. Although Lubelski toted violin during the encore, positioning her on bass proposes her as an ersatz Kim Gordon. “Another female bass player,” said the same voice to my left.

Equally, Chelsea Light Moving’s songs draw from the familiar – both musically and with Moore’s preoccupations. The sound they make is pretty much a purée of the softer side of 1988’s Daydream Nation and 2002’s Murray Street. A section of “Empires of Time” filches riffs from Sonic Youth’s “Kool Thing”. There’s the fascination with early punk in covering the totemic Germs’s “Communist Eyes” and referencing their Darby Crash in “Mohawk” (neither of which were performed last night). The nightmare Manson-type flipside of the hippy era crops up in “Groovy & Linda”, based on the real case of two freaks murdered in New York in 1967. “Burroughs” is countered by “Frank O’Hara Hit”, after the NYC poet. The band’s name is taken from a removal company run by Philip Glass and Steve Reich.

With so much familiar and so many explicit references, Chelsea Light Moving are obviously Moore’s vehicle. Whether he’s reclaiming a lot of what made Sonic Youth tick or continuing unfinished business, the result is the same thing: Chelsea Light Moving are a blurred photocopy of Sonic Youth. Which doesn’t make them bad. The show was a blast. But it’s a fair bet the energetic Moore’s solo work and the unpredictable results of his sometimes volatile collaborative forays bring him more to chew on than treading water with the admittedly nifty Chelsea Light Moving.

Visit Kieron Tyler’s blog

Watch the video for Chelsea Light Moving's "Groovy & Linda"

It’s a fair bet Moore’s solo work and his collaborative forays bring him more to chew on than Chelsea Light Moving


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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