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Lee Ranaldo and Raul Refree - Names of North End Women

  by Adrian P

published: 10 / 4 / 2020



Lee Ranaldo and Raul Refree - Names of North End Women
Label: Mute
Format: CD

intro

Sonic Youth’s ‘third voice’ Lee Ranaldo moves out of his solo career safe spaces with this intriguing collaborative detour with Raul Refree


Although it’s still sad that Sonic Youth’s creative communitarianism ended with a well-documented internal personal relationship breakdown, it has at least liberated the band’s three vocalists and lyricists (sometimes separately supported by redoubtable drummer Steve Shelley) to break-out into multiple and often fruitful cultural avenues. Hence, Thurston Moore has delved into balmy Beck-produced electro-acoustic singer-songcraft, revisited both Sonic Youth’s most melodic as well as most sprawling avenues and set-up a pop-up record store in London; Kim Gordon has explored atonal art-rock with Body/Head, dipped into skronk-pop under her own name and penned a nakedly personal memoir; and Lee Ranaldo has largely leaned less dramatically but assuredly into cutting folk-rock and Americana-tinged wares. Now though, the latter returns with something that shifts him decisively into a fresher direction, which should sustain and uplift his creative profile. Hooking-up with currently ubiquitous Spanish musician, producer and composer Raül Refree, this double-headed long-player finds Ranaldo being pushed out of his comfort zones - in a good way. Constructed with startlingly very little guitar, in favour of deploying various percussion instruments, piano, vintage tape machines, cello, samplers, guest backing vocals and Ranaldo’s mainly semi-spoken-word tones, as well as featuring some lyrical co-writes between Ranaldo, Refree and extra accomplice Jonathan Lethem, this eight-song studio set proves to be an off-piste but inviting affair. Proceedings open strongly with the pulsing slow prowl of ‘Alice, Etc.’, wherein the twosome steer into a near-shamanistic processional, replete with desert-scorched acoustics and eerie atmospherics. Things continue at an equivalent pace and with varying but similarly-scented cross-pollinations thereafter. Thus, for the remainder of the first-half, the gorgeous ‘Words Out Of The Haze’ turns through hushed John Fahey meditations and spooked yet warm synthetic layers; ‘New Brain Trajectory’ slinks into murmured stalking, gamelan chimes, glitch-edged drones and overlapping voices; and ‘Humps’ immerses elegiac elements from Brian Eno’s ‘Another Green World’ into murky seams of percussion and electric guitar shimmers. Over in the second half, Ranaldo and Refree continue their effective fusions, albeit with some slightly more ebullient elevation. Therefore, the buoyant title-track feels like a choice outtake from Talking Heads’ ‘Remain in Light’ with multi-tracked vocals and percussion to the fore; ‘Light Years Out’ builds up from a sparse beat-poet-like reading into waves of tape-manipulations, live as well as programmed voodoo beats and rubbery bass-lines; ‘The Art of Losing’ burrows through tiers of pulsating electronics, treated pianos and distorted loopscaping; and ‘At the Forks’ dials down most of the abstraction to conclude the collection with some calmer acid-folk framings. Whilst ‘Names of North End Women’ might ultimately lack songs that can stand solidly outside its hermitic sound world, the myriad sonic blends contained within are remarkably satisfying and absorbing when taken as a whole. Moreover, it marks out Lee Ranaldo’s Sonic Youth-afterlife as worth paying far closer attention to in future.



Track Listing:-
1 Alice, Etc.
2 Words Out Of The Haze
3 New Brain Trajectory
4 Humps
5 Names Of North End Women
6 Light Years Out
7 The Art Of Losing
8 At The Forks (Edit)



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