April 24, 2001
THURSTON MOORE/WALLY SHOUP/TOSHI MAKIHARA
Sublingual Records SL R007
Frequently crossing the thin line between noise improv and noise rock, HURRICANE FLOYD is as aggressive and all encompassing as its namesake. And like homes reduced to rubble when caught in the path of its namesake, some of the results here are less than appealing
On the plus side there are the probing sonic outings of Seattle alto saxophonist Wally Shoup and Philadelphia percussionist Toshi Makihara. But, unfortunately, the featured performer appears to be Sonic Youth frontman Thurston Moore, playing what seems to both unsubtle rock-inflected guitar lines and guitar amplifier. His contribution to the proceedings decrease with his audibility. Subtlety may not be the point of a session like this, but rock star self-aggregation doesn't help matters.
For a start the trio work is bisected by the guitarist's nearly eight-minute solo interlude. Think of every simplistic cliché, "unplugged" rock guitarists use and you've heard the number. Thankfully a CD's programmable function exists.
The other tracks depend on whether there's less or Moore guitar. For instance on "1 [Trio]", Shoup produces some interesting multiphonics matched by Makihara's eccentric percussion forays. Unfortunately a section of buzzes and feedback, which sound as if it comes from someone just learning the electric guitar soon disrupts the built up momentum.
Later Makihara seems to take literally the old drummer's expression of "putting on the pots and pans" with percussive sounds that appear to arise from the kitchen. That segment is slowly succeeded by what could be a racing car accelerating until more noisy feedback obliterates the entire aural picture for some misplaced guitar hero rock riffs.
Intentional amp buzzes mixed with percussion scrimps and scrapes contrasted with alto sax cries that build up in intensity mean that "2 [Trio]" — the shortest track — starts to move into quasi-electronica territory. Soon, though an incessant amp drones force the other two musicians to begin shrieking to at least be heard.
Leaving the best for last, "Retribution of Sorts" begins with a memorable gospel blues-inflected solo saxophone section accompanied by subtle cymbal accents and reverberations on the guitar's bridge. Each person seems to be carefully listening to the other as an improv understanding is slowed reached. Unfortunately noise tendencies then get the best of everyone and the "Retribution" becomes an ascending noise fest that nearly obliterates the cooperation that had come before.
There are those who say that having Moore participate in improvised activities exposes his large pop audience to this sort of music. Not only do these folks fill venues, the argument goes, but they may also go on to appreciate other players they see playing with him. That spurious contention has been used countless times before to justify the inclusion in different musical settings of so-called popularizers ranging from Chuck Mangione to George Shearing and from Grover Washington Lewis to George Benson. While a minority of listening audience members may head for the real deal after exposure, the majority will only turn up when their particular favorite is in the house. Moore's position is even odder because he has chosen to allay himself with the so-called "difficult" improv. While he may be sincere in his support for the sounds, truthfully his playing is so inferior to those who have devoted their life to the ideal that you begin to suspect his presence is merely because of his name — like a Hollywood star invited to a political rally.
Sonic Youth fans will be disappointed with this outing , while improvised music followers will no doubt also wonder why the trio wasn't completed by a different chordal player.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. [Trio] 2. [Trio] 3. Alter Boy, Church Basement 4. Retribution of Sorts
Personnel: Wally Shoup (alto saxophone); Thurston Moore (electric and acoustic guitars); Toshi Makihara (percussion)