"MACHINE"
by SONIC YOUTH

"Machine" is an instrumental from The Eternal era, originally released as a bonus mp3 for those who participated in Matador's "Buy Now Get Early" preorder promotion for that album. It was later collected on the bandcamp compilation Rarities 3 and also serves as the centerpiece for 2022's In/Out/In.

From RARITIES 3 liner notes:

"We were happy to be recording again with friend and engineer/producer John Agnello, and happy to be on a NYC-based indie label - Matador Records - however briefly it lasted. This instrumental was written and recorded in 2008 during sessions for The Eternal and was used as a bonus MP3 for Matadorís Buy Early Get Now program. We did record one more full-length after The Eternal, a soundtrack recording for the French film Simon Werner A Disparu (SYR 9) which was released on our own SYR label."

From IN/OUT/IN liner notes:

"Recorded and mixed by Aaron Mullan in 2008. Performed by Kim Gordon, Thurston Moore, Lee Ranaldo and Steve Shelley."

I suppose I'd never listened closely enough to recognize that there was no bass - I had assumed Mark was a part of the songwriting process during this era but he does not appear on "Basement Contender" either, so perhaps he wasn't available at all times.

The song revolves around a riff in Kim's unmistakeable guitar tone. She never used the Eterna on The Eternal tour, but something about her tone on this track just makes me think it's that guitar. I also hear unisons, so I think her part may have been in DADABB - the Eterna's tuning from 1996 through 2006. She doesn't use this tuning on the album, instead a modified version - DADABD - so I could be very wrong. She got some pretty gnarly sounds out of her custom Jaguar and Jazzmasters on that album, so who knows...the tab below is in DADABB.

Thurston and Lee are almost certainly in their pair of D tunings so prevalent on The Eternal and SYR9. Thurston first used DDAF#AD on his Trees Outside The Academy album, and of course Lee's DDDDAA tuning dates all the way back to Sister - "Schizophrenia" "Catholic Block" and "Tuff Gnarl".

I did have one clue, a series of photos from some event (possibly related to the Sensational Fix exhibit...?) that showed some notes for the band's Eternal material blown up on the wall:

I realize they're a little hard to read, but you can see chord charts and song layouts for "Sacred Trickster" (previously titled "Tappan Zee Jelly Joy"?), "Calming the Snake", a "Kim Song" with a "cool riff", and our song of the hour, "Machine". Thurston and Lee's tunings are also confirmed in big bold letters in the upper left.

Initially I thought the "Kim Song" was "Machine" since it's driven by her riff, but it seems to be sectioned off from the "Machine" territory. The song chart at the very bottom seems more reminiscent of "Calming the Snake" to me, although both songs have a drum intro. I don't think of "CRASH + NOISE" when the main section of "Machine" begins, but it's also possible they changed the layout after these notes were made.

In the section for the "Kim Song", there is a Kim tuning listed but it is partially obscured by the wall art - DADA is all that is visible. The tunings she used for The Eternal were CGDACD, CGDADG, DADABD, and DDAF#AD - the latter of which is the "Calming the Snake" tuning. So that suggests that the "Kim Song" square may not be "Calming the Snake", and indeed could be DADABB if not DADABD. It could also be a song that was never finished/released, so let's focus on what we can be (kinda) sure of...Lee's notes for "Machine" (as far as I can tell, all of these notes are his).

The layout can be viewed between images 1 and 3, but I'm not sure of the start:

4 - dr
8 - A
2 - dr
4 - A
chop
----
RPT.

Then there's a note that says 2nd St Hi on 11 - bendy -> lo barre 6 - believe it or not, this will make sense below!

Usually Lee does 6-string chord shape notations by writing the necessary fret number next to the "fretboard" and use filled-in dots for chord fingerings, and hollow dots for notes that move around within a chord, or riff, etc. The "Sacred Trickster" charts are a good example. However, in his "Machine" notes the fretboard chart is only 3 strings, which I suspect is either D D A as 3 unison strings, or just the top 3 DDDDAA strings.

Section III is identified as "metallic crashes".

So, how does this all go together?

UPDATE: I was able to obtain the actual page from Lee's notebook of scores for The Eternal, which sheds a little more light on the notations examined above, but overall leaves me more confused:

As indicated in the upper left, the page dates from July 11th, 2008 rehearsals at Echo Canyon West, their post-Murray Street studio in Hoboken, NJ. I believe this is the earliest page in the book, which does suggest "Machine" was one of the first tracks to be written. Again, I don't think this is a fully finished map for the song, but it does capture the main riff and some of the other elements (discussed above). I'm still confused as to whether the "KIM SONG/COOL RIFF" section is connected to "Machine" by the "and" with the arrow pointing down, but we can now see that the Kim tuning listed is DADABD so I'm willing to concede that she probably did not use DADABB for this track (though I'm not updating the tab - just play it on one string if it bothers you!).

The separate panel for "Calming the Snake" points to it being worked on during the same day's session (and the opposite page, which is actually the inside cover of the notebook, has a final layout for the track). There are other unfulfilled ideas throughout the pages, so it's possible that the "KIM SONG/COOL RIFF" was an early idea that never got completed. I've tried playing the notes he's transcribed in DDA, something like this:

A-------    -----    -----
A----8--    --5--    -----   assuming i'm interpreting the "lo 2(4) on 9" correctly, 
D---10-- -> --7-- -> -(9)-      as the low 2 (or 4) strings on the 9th fret
D-------    -----    -(9)-
D-------    -----    --9--
D-------    -----    --9--
It doesn't immediately remind me of anything, aside from some SYR9 stuff (which shares a lot of tunings with The Eternal), but I'm going to admit defeat and assume it's unrelated to "Machine", or at least the finished version. I'm not even sure if the "8 7 6 5 or 8 5 7 8 etc" note refers to "Machine" or not, perhaps an early concept for the "chop" section though he ultimately ended up playing different notes. I don't think the chart at the bottom of the page is for "Machine", but I could be wrong - as I mention below, the song was probably not fully developed beyond the recorded take, which does seem to have heavily improvised elements in some of the sections (and never received a bassline).

Anyway, hopefully it's cool to see the intact page, and yes I hope to offer peeks at additional Eternal notes in the future!

 


 

"MACHINE"

 

KIM DADABB CENTER
THURSTON DDAF#AD RIGHT
LEE DDDDAA LEFT

 

LAYOUT

DRUM INTRO
A
DRUM BREAK
B
C
D

REPEAT


DRUM INTRO			00:00-00:07 (guitars silent)

A SECTION			00:07-00:37

Kim's main riff: 

B--7--10--9-x-x-3-----7--10--9-x-x-5---		   she doesn't always play the 9th fret notes, 
B--7--10--9-x-x-3-----7--10--9-x-x-5---   x 4	      sometimes just mutes/slides etc.
A--------------------------------------
D--------------------------------------		
A--------------------------------------
D--------------------------------------

Thurston plays his riff clean and very loose with lots of open strings:

D---18-18-18-18-18-18-18-18--------------------
A----0--0--0--0--0--0--0--0--------------------	  x 8
F#---0--0--0--0--0--0--0--0---0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0--
A-----------------------------0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0--
D-----------------------------x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x--
D-----------------------------6-6-6-6-6-6-6-6-- slight bend

Lee's part is actually able to be decoded from the notes above, 
specifically "2nd St Hi on 11 - bendy -> lo barre 6"

A-------0----0----0----0------------------
A------11b~~11b~~11b~~11b~~---------------  x 8
D--0--------------------------------------
D--0--------------------------6-6-6-6-6---
D--0--------------------------6-6-6-6-6---
D--0--------------------------6-6-6-6-6---

Even before I realized what the notes meant, this was basically how I was playing the riff. I believe his 
note means to play the 2nd string at the 11th fret, while bending it, and then switch to barring the low 
strings at the 6th fret. During the first half of this riff, he plays the low Ds and basically attacks 
the 11th fret note, bending it in an oddly aggressive way, while the open A string rings out.

DRUM BREAK			00:37-00:41

B SECTION			00:41-00:55
	
Kim:

B--3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3- etc
B--3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-
A--------------------------
D--------------------------
A--------------------------
D--------------------------

Thurston plays the same riff as the A section, only he turns on distortion and slides into the high note 
on the 18th fret to emphasize it, then plays the 6th fret chord clean and choppy (still sloppy).

D--\18-18-18-18-18-18-18-18--------------------
A----0--0--0--0--0--0--0--0--------------------	  x 8
F#---0--0--0--0--0--0--0--0---0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0--
A-----------------------------0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0--
D-----------------------------x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x--
D-----------------------------6-6-6-6-6-6-6-6-- slight bend

Lee's part during this section is somewhat explained via the 3-string chord shape in the 2nd image, 
although I hear open low Ds so I think it may be the top 3 strings rather than the entire fretboard. 
The 7 indicates the dotted notes are played at the 7th fret, with the 8th fret on the high A being 
added (this is clear on the recording) and also the 5th fret on the A at some points.

A-----------7-7-7-7-7-8--8-8-8--
A-----------7-7-7-7-7-7--7-7-7--
D-----7-7-7-7-7-7-7-7-7--7-7-7-- etc 
D-----7-7-7-7-7-7-7-7-7--7-7-7--
D--0--0-0-0-0-------------------
D--0--0-0-0-0-------------------

He mostly seems to hold that shape and play around there. To be honest, it sounds like they hadn't 
entirely fleshed out the song and certain parts were being improvised while they got from A to B 
(or B to C in this case).

B SECTION CONTINUED:		00:56-01:10

Kim switches to this note:

B--7-7-7-7-7-7-7-7-7-7-7-7- etc
B--7-7-7-7-7-7-7-7-7-7-7-7-
A--------------------------
D--------------------------
A--------------------------
D--------------------------

Thurston begins playing this note very staccato:

D------
A------
F#-----
A------   x 16	    after this he begins an ascending riff a little earlier than the rest of the band
D---6--  	                            (tabbed below in C section)
D---6--				

Lee continues improvising around this shape:

A--8--
A--7--
D--7--
D--7--
D--0--
D--0--

C SECTION			01:11-01:33

Kim's part is kinda buried, and she has that dirty trebly fuzz going on, but I think it's something like:

B----------------------
B----------------------			possibly with a slide?
A----------------------
D----------------------
A----------------------
D--12-0-12-0-12-0-12-0- etc 		it sounds like she hits the 13th fret sometimes too

Thurston plays an ascending motif (this actually starts at 1:04):

D-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
F#------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
D---6-7-7-7-7-7-7-7--8-8-8-8--9-9-9-9--10-10-10-10--11-11-11-11--12-12-12-12--13-13-13-13--14-14-14-14--
D---6-7-7-7-7-7-7-7--8-8-8-8--9-9-9-9--10-10-10-10--11-11-11-11--12-12-12-12--13-13-13-13--14-14-14-14--

D----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 
F#---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------    
A----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------      
D---15-15-15-15--16-16-16-16--17-17-17-17--18-18-18-18-18-18-18-18-18-18-18-18-18-18-18-18--0--
D---15-15-15-15--16-16-16-16--17-17-17-17--18-18-18-18-18-18-18-18-18-18-18-18-18-18-18-18--0--

Lee plays a similar motif but goes up and down:

A------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
D------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
D------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
D--10-10-10-10--11-11-11-11--12-12-12-12--9-9-9-9--13-13-13-13--14-14-14-14--11-11-11-11--14-14-14-14--
D--10-10-10-10--11-11-11-11--12-12-12-12--9-9-9-9--13-13-13-13--14-14-14-14--11-11-11-11--14-14-14-14--

A-----------------------------------------------------------------
A-----------------------------------------------------------------
D-----------------------------------------------------------------
D-----------------------------------------------------------------
D--15-15-15-15--13-13-13-13--12-12-12-12--16-16-16-16--15---X-0---
D--15-15-15-15--13-13-13-13--12-12-12-12--16-16-16-16--15---X-0---

Both Thurston and Lee's parts are played staccato and very "loose", with optional mutes between notes, 
optional notes within chords, optional open low Ds between notes, etc. Thurston gets a little looser 
than Lee in this part.

I guess this is the "CHOP" section based on the written chart?

D SECTION			01:33-01:47

I assume this is the "metallic crashes" part. Kim just does really nasty distorted bursts, I think she's 
playing a D but it sounds more like a robot coughing. I love her tone in this era! I'm not sure what
combination of effects she using for that gorgeous noise.

B-------
B-------
A-------
D---x--- x 8 
A---x---
D---0---  

Thurston spits ugly choked 7th and 5th fret harmonic chords - played loosely!! - shake w/ bar - and 
some squealin' feedback...

D-----------<5>~~~--
A-----------<5>~~~-- 
F#--<7>~~~--<5>~~~-- etc etc w/ 8 drum crashes
A---<7>~~~----------
D---<7>~~~----------
D----0~~~~----------

Lee's part is actually the end of his stompy bit above:

A-----------------------------------
A-----------------------------------
D-----------------------------------
D----------------------------------- etc / 8 drum crashes
D-----X-0-----15-15-0----15-15-0----
D-----X-0-----15-15-0----15-15-0----

DRUM INTRO			01:48-01:55

Slight bit of Thurston feedback, otherwise same as intro.

A SECTION			01:55-02:25

Same as first "verse".

DRUM BREAK			02:25-02:29

Lee blasts a quick open D chord but otherwise the same.

B SECTION			02:29-02:43

This is the same as the first time, though Lee is playing variations around the same chord shape. 
See the notes above.

B SECTION CONTINUED		02:44-02:51

Kim and Thurston play the same thing, but Lee changes it up:

Kim:

B--7-7-7-7-7-7-7-7-7-7-7-7- etc
B--7-7-7-7-7-7-7-7-7-7-7-7-
A--------------------------
D--------------------------
A--------------------------
D--------------------------

Thurston:

D------
A------
F#-----
A------   x 16	
D---6--  			 
D---6--	

Lee:

A-----
A-----
D-----
D-----  x 16 
D--7--
D--7--

C SECTION			02:51-03:21

This part is a bit different, but same concept.

I hear Kim playing the 13th fret more heavily:

B----------------------
B----------------------
A----------------------
D----------------------
A----------------------
D--13-0-13-0-13-0-13-0- etc

Thurston plays the same part, with even more "looseness" - pulling off to the open D strings, adding 
higher strings, etc

D-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
F#------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
D---6-7-7-7-7-7-7-7--8-8-8-8--9-9-9-9--10-10-10-10--11-11-11-11--12-12-12-12--13-13-13-13--14-14-14-14--
D---6-7-7-7-7-7-7-7--8-8-8-8--9-9-9-9--10-10-10-10--11-11-11-11--12-12-12-12--13-13-13-13--14-14-14-14--

D----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 
F#---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------    
A----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------      
D---15-15-15-15--16-16-16-16--17-17-17-17--18-18-18-18-18-18-18-18-18-18-18-18-18-18-18-18--0--
D---15-15-15-15--16-16-16-16--17-17-17-17--18-18-18-18-18-18-18-18-18-18-18-18-18-18-18-18--0--

Lee changes it up:

A-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
D-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
D-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
D--8-8-8-8-8-8-8-8---10-10-10-10--9-9-9-9--11-11-11-11--12-12-12-12--9-9-9-9--15-15-15-15--14-14-14-14--
D--8-8-8-8-8-8-8-8---10-10-10-10--9-9-9-9--11-11-11-11--12-12-12-12--9-9-9-9--15-15-15-15--14-14-14-14--

A-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------0-----
A-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------0-----
D-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------0----- 
D-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------0-----   
D--12-12-12-12--15-15-15-15--17-17-17-17--16-16-16-16--15-15-15-15--15-0-15-0-15-0-15-0---0-----
D--12-12-12-12--15-15-15-15--17-17-17-17--16-16-16-16--15-15-15-15--15-0-15-0-15-0-15-0---0-----

D SECTION			03:21-03:38

For the final 8 "metallic crashes", Kim is not as loud, but I think she is playing 
another heavily modulated D note.

Thurston repeats his random harmonic/squeal/general guitar abuse.

Lee plays open string chords/harmonics rather than the pull-off part he played the 
first time around.

And that's it!

text + tab by Chris Lawrence

Return to "SONG OF THE WEEK"

Return to the Sonic Youth Guitar/Bass Tab Archive