Tag Archives: Chelsea Light Moving

Concert review: Chelsea Light Moving and Speedy Ortiz @Horseshoe Tavern | Sept. 15, 2013

Angular, avant-aggro guitar explorations take centre stage as Thurston Moore showcases new material and reimagines older songs at the Horseshoe

Thurston Moore breaking out text from John Donne for Chelsea Light Moving's reworking of the 16th-century poet's "The Ecstasy." Photo: Tom Beedham

Thurston Moore breaking out text from John Donne for Chelsea Light Moving’s reworking of the 16th-century poet’s “The Ecstasy.” Photo: Tom Beedham

“We’re the Ghetto Priests from Nova Scotia. It’s nice to be back,” quipped Thurston Moore about 25 minutes through Chelsea Light Moving’s set. Towering over the crowd from atop just the modest stage at the back of the Horseshoe, it was the first time the Sonic Youth founder had acknowledged the Toronto audience directly that night. But with a strap reading “THURSTON” cradling the forest green Jazzmaster that Fender hot-rodded out in its wearer’s name – as if appearance was the only thing fans could go on – there was no question as to who was standing before them. The guitarist’s presence is not the kind to escape recognition; even when he hung back at stage left to concentrate on assaulting his amp with a load of feedback, Moore’s situation at the Horseshoe was undeniable, especially with his new band.

Whereas Sonic Youth offered listeners a dialogical sound democracy of which Thurston Moore was just one of four loud voices, Chelsea Light Moving is a puppet (albeit a dynamic, multi-brained one) under Moore’s guitar testing hand, and the live show made that resonate with a roaring ferocity.

Chugging through a set filled with songs culled from the group’s eponymous debut, as well as new tracks “Sunday Stage,” “No Go” – apparently the “theme song” to a new board game to “be made from wood, plastic, and meat” that the band is working on “since nobody buys records anymore,” if you take Moore’s word for it – and an interpretation of 16th-century poet John Donne’s “The Ecstasy,” (full setlist below) the band’s set was heavy on noise improv, but all under the directive gaze of its most famous member. Even when guitarist Keith Wood was slashing away with picks that struck below the bridge, above the nut, and anywhere else that could render sounds from his own Jazzmaster, it was while awaiting nods and “1, 2, 3”s from Moore.

When the time came and the crowd collectively clapped for an encore, whether intentionally or not, one fan articulated their leader’s surname into a double-entendre, incessantly screaming “Moore!” (or “More!”). This continued until the icon ducked through the steps and back up to the stage to answer the supporter with, well, more Moore – and not exactly the Chelsea Light Moving kind; with CLM bassist Samara Lubelski switching to her violin (an instrument she was called to play on Moore’s Demolished Thoughts), the band’s encore performance was focused exclusively on churning out extended jams of “Staring Statues” and “Ono Soul” from their leader’s ’95 solo effort, Psychic Hearts.

Moore fans who arrived early for Speedy Ortiz (if unaware of the 2013 alt-rock breakout act) got a surprise double dose of noisy, angular guitar exploration, and one that was notably disparate to the Northampton, Mass. band’s debut LP, Major Arcana in terms of the mix, with guitarist Matt Robidoux seemingly turned up to 11 and getting as much attention as Speedy Ortiz founder and frontwoman Sadie Dupuis. Sourcing a stack of cassettes gifted to him at the venue, the guitarist found a toy to slide across his strings when he wasn’t shaking his guitar in front of an amp or plowing away at it for the noise pop outfit’s signature rhythms. After his strap failed multiple times throughout the set, Robidoux said something to Dupuis and it was time to announce the last song after just 20 minutes of set, but at least the crowd got a chance to hear Speedy Ortiz’s sludgy slacker anthem “Tiger Tank.”

Chelsea Light Moving setlist
“Groovy & Linda”
“Empires Of Time”
“Sleeping Where I Fall”
“Frank O’Hara Hit”
“Sunday Stage”
“The Ecstasy” (John Donne)
“No Go”
“Staring Statues” and “Ono Soul” from Thurston’s Psychic Hearts

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Concert Photos: Fucked Up, METZ, Chelsea Light Moving & more at Supercrawl in Hamilton, ON Sept. 14, 2013

Alex Edkins of METZ takes a power stance at Supercrawl in Hamilton, ON on Sept. 14, 2013. The festival also saw performances from Fucked Up, Thurston Moore's new band Chelsea Light Moving, Speedy Ortiz, and more. Photo: Tom Beedham

Alex Edkins of METZ takes a power stance at Supercrawl in Hamilton, ON on Sept. 14, 2013. The festival also saw performances from Fucked Up, Thurston Moore’s new band Chelsea Light Moving, Speedy Ortiz, and more. Photo: Tom Beedham

This September the Hamilton community celebrated its fifth year of the annual James St. North Supercrawl, estimated to bring out an attendance of over 100,000 people this year. I brought along a camera and got shots of performances from bands performing the second full day of this year’s festival, including sets from Fucked Up, METZ, Thurston Moore’s post-Sonic Youth band Chelsea Light Moving, Speedy Ortiz, The Pack AD, X Ambassadors, and Doldrums.

Click here for all of the shots.

Album Review: Chelsea Light Moving–’Chelsea Light Moving’

Chelsea Light Moving’s self-titled LP (Matador)

“Smash the control images. Smash the control machine.” When William S. Burroughs penned those words in his 1961-published The Soft Machine, they defined more than their immediate context; smashing control was the purpose for the cut-up/fold-in format of The Soft Machine and the trilogy it belonged to, but it was also the general focus of Burroughs’s life’s work. Working from that premise, we can begin to understand what (former?) Sonic Youth guitarist/vocalist Thurston Moore meant when he presented his new band, Chelsea Light Moving, to the world and toted it as “Burroughs rock.”

To be sure, passing off your music as something that can be directly aligned with a highly esteemed thinker’s raison d’être involves no modest claim making, especially when the legend in question now resides beyond the grave and has no further say in the matter. But any question regarding Thurston Moore’s tact can probably be put to bed in this case; Chelsea Light Moving’s eponymous LP comes over 20 years after its songwriter earned Burroughs’s personal blessing when Sonic Youth’s music was featured on Burroughs’s own readings vs. music album Dead City Radio, and following the author’s death in 1997, Sonic Youth’s association with Burroughs was given further cultural approval when it was featured predominately throughout the 2010 documentary William S. Burroughs: A Man Within.

Sonic Youth never explicitly identified itself as “Burroughs rock,” though it was regarded that way anyway. But is Chelsea Light Moving a rightful heir to that throne solely for the virtue of Moore’s back catalogue?

The answer is an unmistakable No. And Burroughs wouldn’t approve of Moore doing something that was markedly faithful to the Sonic Youth formula, anyway. After all, he did say, “to become an individual again, [an individual must] decontrol himself, train himself as to what is going on and win back as much independent ground for himself as possible.” He associated true individuality with engaging in a Nietzschean sort of constant becoming.

In accordance with Burroughs’s penchant for personal overcoming, Chelsea Light Moving is no vanity project. Moore has done solo work before, but Chelsea Light Moving marks his first time at the helm of an actual band. That’s in stark contrast to how, with Sonic Youth, Moore shared creative responsibilities mostly with fellow guitarist Lee Ranaldo and bassist Kim Gordon (Moore’s wife until their divorce in 2011).

Style and content-wise, the album also offers a history that Burroughs himself could have provided, and they do it in a way that’s never been done before; Chelsea Light offers an unambiguous homage to its genre-sake with “Burroughs” (and Beat poetry more generally on “Mohawk,” which – with a late reference to Darby Crash – also serves as a premature segue for the group’s cover of the 1979 Germs track “Communist Eyes”); “Frank O’Hara Hit,” a track Moore described on the Matador blog as “a meditation on [Julys] through history,” is about the month that included the 1966 death of New York City poet Frank O’Hara; and along with its Germs cover, “Lip” serves as a tribute to hardcore punk from the ’80s, while the chugging “Alighted” digs into sludge elements born in the same decade.

Burroughs wanted to smash all notions of control, and with Chelsea Light Moving, Moore makes good business of the same pursuit. But with this being said, there’s an important way in which Sonic Youth excelled at a Burroughsian enterprise that Chelsea Light Moving ignores.

Some might find it unfair to hold Moore’s new band up against an older act that had time to grow and strengthen as an organism, but Moore and fellow Chelsea Light Moving members Samara Lubelski, John Moloney, and Keith Wood have been at the music game long enough, and the overlapping contexts and intentions of the two groups make comparison here relevant.

One of the greatest appeals of Sonic Youth was the group’s tendency to share the responsibility of songwriting/directing among its members and bounce off of each other’s ideas in a democratic fashion – best discernable in the noise rock meltdowns that made their way into so many Sonic Youth recordings. With Moore providing the sole vocals and his guitar weighing heavy in the mix, Chelsea Light Moving seems to rely on an authority that was less discernable in Sonic Youth’s more recognizably democratic output, and as a result – at least in a structural sense – seems at least marginally less concerned with smashing control than his former band.

But that shouldn’t count too heavily against Moore’s new group. Chelsea Light Moving is not without the collective tantrums of disparate noise that Burroughs must have loved about Sonic Youth, and when they provide those fits, they’re at their best.

Maybe through holding back on the anarchic noise meditations, Moore intended for his audiences to get hungry. If so, it worked.



(originally published by The Ontarion on March 20, 2013)