New York City avant-garde convergence YOKOKIMTHURSTON is a collaborative album by Yoko Ono, Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore. Japanese artist and writer Yoko Ono played a key part in establishing avant-garde music and art from as early as 1960 and takes the lead here with the improvised vocals on the album. Gordon and Moore gained recognition for their part in the no wave band Sonic Youth and provide the backing vocals and guitars on the release.
The idea of the three artists working together first started when they were consistently appearing on the same festival bills and at the same memorial concerts. Recorded in February 2011 at Manhattan’s Sear Sound, YOKOKIMTHURSTON features a strange combination of poetics, improvised song forms and free-rock. Each song is nearly ten minutes long.
“I Missed You Listening, Part 1” opens with strange murmurings and strained vocals over light, rhythmic guitar strums and twangs. The vocal sounds are very primal, cackles and cries like bird or animal sounds from the jungle, and is a rambling nine minutes and fifty eight seconds long. Portions of Ono’s performance recall a comment she once made about her vocal style being related to a childhood memory of eavesdropping on a maid giving birth.
“Running the Risk” starts with a juxtaposition of different spoken statements – the three of them talk about completely different things from “sticky floor”, “the biggest fish” and “striking evidence” to “an affectionate performer” and “scratching with keys”. It’s another long track with a running time of 9:38, more strings come in at about three minutes and add to the experimental avant-garde feel.
“I Never Told You, Did I?” is full of whispering, Ono repeats the title “I never told you, I wanted to, I couldn’t” . “Mirror Mirror” runs equally as long at 9:45 – the background noises are at their most experimental with crackling and rubbing sounds as well as the more traditional but still minimal guitar chords. Ono sings “Sometimes it’s good to roll in the mud” and references the title; “Mirror, mirror, who’s the ugliest of them all? Who’s the smallest of them all?”. Gordon provides backing vocals; “Is it wrong to be you?”.
In “Let’s Get There, Part 1” Ono’s vocal explorations are at their most raucous as are the backing sounds. Closing track “Early In The Morning” is a fifteen minute, static noise and chant filled track which is, at times, uncomfortable to listen to. However, the collaboration seems very natural, like the trio have been working together for a long time. In conclusion,YOKOKIMTHURSTON is not your usual bed-time listening but it’s refreshing new collaboration that is sure to stand out for years to come.
Reviewed by Heather Welsh.