One of the best things about being A&E editor at a newspaper is getting to chat with cool people about what they’re doing – it doesn’t matter if they’re local or, in the case of Sonic Youth founder Thurston Moore, now based thousands of miles away in London.
Plus, Moore grew up in my neck of the woods in Connecticut, and he, too, began his college career at Western Connecticut State University. He, like many kids who grew up within spitting distance of New York City, ended up moving there, playing in bands and ultimately putting together Sonic Youth in 1981 and working on countless other projects since – including teaching class at Naropa University in Boulder.
“By the Fire,” released Sept. 25, is Moore’s latest project and his seventh solo album. It features musicians Deb Googe (My Bloody Valentine) on bass and backing vocals; Jon Leidecker aka “Wobbly” (of Negativland) on electronics; James Sedwards on guitar; and Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley, as well as Jem Doulton, alternating on drums. The album was released Moore’s own Daydream Library Series record label.
And the timing of the album’s release was fortuitous, Moore said, not only because we can all use a little something to bust us out of this seven-month doom cycle, but also because “By the Fire” finds itself in good company.
“I was really happy my record’s coming out the same day as Public Enemy’s record and Bob Mould’s record,” he said. “I just like that community of energy because it’s such rampant bad news happening all the time that I think it’s really important to counter it with good news.”
“By the Fire” is made up of nine tracks, “nine songs of enlightenment, released to a world on fire. 2020 is our time for radical change and collective awareness,” Moore said in a news release. The album is centered around the track “Locomotives,” which Moore said was simply because it was the first song he was writing with the idea of making a new record.
“That led me into writing this other piece in the record called ‘Venus,’ which is a purely instrumental piece,” he said. “Then I started gathering material I had already recorded that I thought complemented those pieces. ... I kind of wanted to have it be a bit of a catalogue of sorts of these different ideas.”
And whether you’re listening to the “sonic rock” tracks “Hashish” and “Cantaloupe” or delving deeper into the almost-14-minute “Venus,” Moore will keep your head busy with psychedelic sounds that might just shake off the dust of constant COVID-19 doom.
“I wanted the record to be talking about just different aspects that I thought were more progressive and sort of conscious kind of collective, kind of harmonious aspects as opposed to what’s out there in the landscape with this kind of empowerment of totalitarianism, or this heightening of divisiveness,” he said. “I kind of, like a lot of people, became very responsive to that and thought we need to put more work out there that is encouraging toward just some positive vibes. I think it’s being done all over the place, but I just think it’s really important now.”