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Moshe 08.06.2007 03:10 AM

"Trees Outside The Academy" reviews 4

Thurston Moore's "Trees Outside The Academy"

2007-07-12 10:28:57
Looking back over the past few months of writing Wild Mercury Sound, it does seem like I go on again and again about Sonic Youth and Thurston Moore's Ecstatic Peace label. I guess I can be a bit fanboyish over the whole business, but then there are few bands who've shaped my musical aesthetics as profoundly as the Youth, and the wild and varied music that Moore has been putting out on his imprint of late (from Wooden Wand to Turbo Fruits, from MV + EE And The Bummer Road to Sunburned Hand Of Man, to Awesome Color) means they've kept me excited and engaged more, perhaps, than any other label in 2007.
The latest thing that's turned up from them is especially good. "Trees Outside The Academy" is a solo album from Thurston Moore himself, in some ways the first since "Psychic Hearts" in '95. Moore, of course, is always working on extra-curricular projects outside the confines of Sonic Youth, so various and often extreme that even groupies like me have trouble keeping up with them.
"Trees Outside The Academy", though, is what some might call a "proper" album, if a "proper" album necessarily contains neat little songs rather than sprawling, frictional skronk-outs. It's composed, rather than improvised, I think. And it's also extraordinarily pretty. Essentially, much here is a showcase for Thurston Moore's gifted songwriting. I guess a lot that has been written about Sonic Youth over the decades, even when they're at their most accessible, has focused on their tunings, the radical guitar techniques which they habitually use.
On "Trees Outside The Academy", Moore mainly plays acoustic. Instead of Lee Ranaldo as a sparring partner, he's mainly matched up against Samara Lubelski, a very good violinist who's added texture to plenty of the East Coast avant-folk scenesters, notably The Bummer Road. Nevertheless, Moore's driving, slightly distracted style is immediately recognisable. It's interesting to discover that the genius is not in the treatment, but in the substance.
The other thing that "Trees Outside The Academy" tells us about Sonic Youth is how critical Steve Shelley is to their sound. One of the reasons why songs like "Frozen Gtr" and the title track here are so immediately familiar is because of Shelley's presence on drums, adding that pattering motorik that pushes them away from pastoral dawdling and into something more dynamic and edgy.
Moore, Lubelski and Shelley are the core trio, but there are some very cool guests sitting in, too. "Frozen Gtr" is punctuated by a mighty solo from J Mascis: the album was recorded in Mascis' home studio, and like some of the best work on Dinosaur Jr's "Beyond", he gives the impression of playing a solo non-stop during his waking hours, occasionally wandering into the vicinity of a microphone. "Wonderful Witches" is a great, pointed little punk pop song that's a throwback to the Youth's "Goo" era, only with John Moloney (from Sunburned and the first line-up of my beloved Howlin' Rain) at the kit.
But maybe my favourite this morning is "Honest James": just Moore on his acoustic, laid-back and ornate in a kind of Takoma style, then joined in a duet by Christina Carter, who sounds much friendlier here than on her ethereal and other-worldly solo records and work fronting Charalambides.
Oh, and at the end there's a hilarious sound collage recorded by Thurston when he was 13 and either auditioning for Fluxus, or being bored in an engagingly arty way. "What you're about to hear is me banging a pencil against the table," he says. There is a banging. "There!" he says. "Now to add a little 'Honky Tonk Women' to the beat of the pencil on the table," he says. There is a fractionally more rhythmic banging. "There!" he says. Eventually, he is forced to admit, "What you have heard is me wasting time." It's cute.
John Mulvey

sonicl 08.06.2007 03:15 AM

Thank you, Moshe. This has inspired me to take a little trip to the Record and Tape Exchange later today to see if anyone's taken a promo in there yet.

Moshe 08.06.2007 03:24 AM

i wanted to preorder but it is not available anywhere.

Washing Machine 08.06.2007 08:42 AM

Any artwork yet?

noisereductions 08.06.2007 01:15 PM

My promo came with artwork. Very minimal. Looks awesome. Sounds better.

noisereductions 08.06.2007 01:17 PM


greenlight 08.06.2007 02:32 PM

thanks for uncut review moshe (positive one). how come so early? probably online is a bit in advance. I was reading this moth's (well sept.) issue, where it says about next month reviews where Thurston's will be included as well.

shit. it was mojo.

noisereductions 08.06.2007 06:13 PM

Ecstatic Peace! sent out promos to the press at least a week ago. That's why you might start seeing such early reviews.

I tell you this... it's a fucking scorcher of a record.

Moshe 08.06.2007 09:15 PM

Thurston – “Trees Outside the Academy”

Published August 6th, 2007 in T.


Thurston is Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, back with his first solo since ’95’s “Psychic Hearts.” For 20-odd plus years, Sonic Youth’s members haven’t stopped playing music, and they haven’t gone away. Now, Moore is back again, coming up with new songs and new sounds, doing what all hope to do well – age gracefully.
On the surface, “Trees Outside the Academy” unwinds itself first as a folk-type ballad album, and then shines in its full glory as a slightly psychedelic noise record that keeps returning to its harmonious folk base and rhythm. The progression at first is surprising, until track one, “Frozen Gtr” is repeated, and the soft whine noise is found to have been present all along. The “noise” and instrumental aspect doesn’t fully begin until “American Coffin,” though, when it transitions from a harsh grind (is that the razor my barber uses?) into a heavy distortion relenting into a hollow piano. Moore reinserts the rhythm however, with “Off Work,” which isn’t as jarring, but maintains a steady rhythm with light percussion and the omnipresent violin as provided by Samara Lubelski. But the song changes completely with the reemergence of the hollow ringing razor that ushers the song into a more meditative track. Noise wave artist Leslie Keffer contributes to this track (I think–), but sometimes it’s hard to know where her influence begins and stops.
This album isn’t all experimentation – most tracks concentrate on Moore’s humbling voice and lyrical approach. Moore is proficient enough never to mix himself with any of the typical singer/songwriter high expression or quiet rage. His voice isn’t angry or profound, just exacting and honest. To say that Moore has a varied, but distinctive, guitar style is an understatement. The most intricate composition is “The Shape is in a Trance,” which breaks into Moore’s more trademark electronic distortion. “Silver/Blue” and “Fri/End” have the slight touch of Sonic Youth’s distinctive sound. Moore’s quality continues and plenty of “yr” and “yeh” abound. [By: Josh Spilker]
Rating: 5/5
Release Date: September 18, 2007

Moshe 08.06.2007 09:18 PM

The Aspiring Sounds of Samara Lubelski.

Published by matt.August 6, 2007 in acoustix, coffeehouse, classy ladies, indie, free folk and tunes.

On the heels of yesterday’s look at the folk-rock sound of MV&EE comes a new album from fellow-Ecstatic Peace artist & current MV&EE touring companion Samara Lubelski.
Samara might not be a household name, but that is not to say that her diverse talents are not available to the public. As a solo artist, Samara has four full-lengths (and one cassette-only release, as all artists should) to her name, alongside being a core member of not one but two psych-folk collectives, The Tower Recordings and Hall of Fame, playing on most of the modern Krautrock band Metabolismus‘ albums as well as being part of MV&EE backing band, The Bummer Road and working alongside Thurston Moore himself on his Trees Outside the Academy. Add to this her engineering and mixing skills, which helped The Fiery Furnaces‘ record their impeccable Blueberry Boat, and it becomes extremely hard to discount her talents.
With back story taken care of, what of her latest offering? This coming October will yield Samara’s next solo foray, entitled Parallel Suns. Like MV&EE, it is a nostalgic affair - but replace MV&EE’s Neil Young & fuzz sound with soft, mostly acoustic Nick Drake adulation.
Each track focuses on Samara’s hushed & warm vocals, layered on top of a 60’s-style mix of psychedelia, folk & pop. It is easy to listen to, comforting even at it’s most intricate or engaging. This really is as “soft” as music can be, with Samara’s production skillfully mixing in all sorts of people and instrumentation (the credits for the album include about 10 other musicians, playing everything from xylophones & drums to guitars & clarinets) making the album a treat to listen to on decent headphones. All in all, the recording epitomizes the “other” side of freak-folk - not ravaged by the psychedelic-fueled freak-out suspiciousness that tends to leak into albums by groups like Sunburned Hand of the Man, Samara’s journey is a tranquil one, leaving it our job, as listeners, to decide if it is one engaging enough to warrant extended play.
like pillows & breezes on a hot day:
Samara Lubelski - Have You Seen the Colors?
Samara Lubelski - Tasting the Candy.
Parallel Suns will be released this coming October from The Social Registry. In the meantime, you can read more about Samara via her myspace or her official web-site.

Moshe 08.06.2007 09:27 PM


SynthethicalY 08.06.2007 09:35 PM

That looks badass, I am going to buy it. I wonder how much the vinyl will be.

greenlight 08.07.2007 12:51 AM


Originally Posted by Moshe

oh, that would be lovely tshirt.

sonicl 08.07.2007 02:55 AM

Is that one of our number who is bidding on that?

Moshe 08.07.2007 03:16 AM

i would bid on it if I knew it is any different from the regular release.

Tokolosh 08.07.2007 03:31 AM

I'll be getting that for sure. A little disappointed with the artwork though.
That photo is a segment taken from a live SY photo, and not very creative.
Oh well, it's the music that counts.

PAULYBEE2656 08.07.2007 07:38 AM

screw all reviews, this album is the shit. i never expected it to be this good. i have had it for a few weeks now and still am amazed to hear its quality. lovin it and so will the world!

noisereductions 08.07.2007 07:55 AM

agreed Paulybee... I expected it to just sound like PSYCHIC HEARTS vol. 2... which sounds like, y'know, Thurston's SY songs for the most part.

This record is a totally different beast. It really surpassed my expectations. Full review in the following weeks.

Ono Soul 08.07.2007 11:56 AM

I've always dug "Psychic Hearts" but would agree with the general consensus that it basically sounds like an SY record full of Thurston songs. TOTA is something completely different and really, it's a remarkable piece of work. I certainly wasn't expecting "Psychic Hearts Part Two", but when I first learned that most of the songs were acoustic based I must admit I was taken back. The end result makes for some very interesting, and often times, downright gorgeous listening. TOTA continues the "song based" direction of "Rather Ripped", but with all the acoustic based arrangements the overall feel is different from anything in SY's cannon. As one of the reviews noted above, there's still a couple bursts of white hot noise to be found here and there, the end result sounding like some sort of post-modern, SY-style take on "folk rock". Long story short, I love it! Four stars all the way! :)

PAULYBEE2656 08.07.2007 12:30 PM

yeah its different to any sy album but ts still unmistakingly thurston moore. it still reeks of thurstons songwriting and playing. its still a thurston album. it just sounds amazing. its been a while since he really nailed it on an album.

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