Kim Gordon

No Home Record

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With every year that passes after Sonic Youth's breakup, Kim Gordon's art becomes more liberated and more revealing. As she focused on the visual art career she sidelined for decades, her music shattered her limiting persona as an aloof, cooler-than-cool alt-rock icon while holding onto her most essential strengths. This is especially true of No Home Record, her fearless, witty, and sensual solo debut. It feels like equal parts fresh start and homecoming for good reason: Gordon began making the album soon after she returned to her hometown of Los Angeles in late 2015. Frequently, it feels like she challenges Californian stereotypes as much as she dispels the received wisdom about her music. There are echoes of the Golden State's wide-open spaces and smoggy claustrophobia on No Home Record, but Gordon's California evokes matte-black lowriders and aftershocks -- the seismic rumbles that loosely underpin each track suggest she recorded the album on the San Andreas Fault. Her 2016 single "Murdered Out," the first hint that Gordon's work as a solo artist might be very different than any of her other projects, still sounds radical. Its grinding groove (courtesy of Warpaint's Stella Mozgawa) and downward bass give her snarl a funkier, looser backdrop that feels invigoratingly new, while its blasts of feedback and distortion echo her wish to erase the past with a fresh coat of spray paint. It sets the tone for the rest of No Home Record's impressionistic, post-industrial collages, which she created with a team including producer Justin Raisen, whose work with Charli XCX and Sky Ferreira reflects his fluency with different flavors of experimental pop, and electronic composer/filmmaker Jake Meginsky. Together, their stream-of-consciousness arrangements go in any direction Gordon wants. "Paprika Pony" is a riveting collision of rippling thumb piano and rattlesnake trap beats; when she deconstructs her former band's legacy on "Air BnB," its fractured skronk and questioning of the "American idea" sound just as vital as when she asked "Are you gonna liberate us girls from the male, white, corporate oppression?" nearly 30 years prior. The music races to keep up with the nuances of Gordon's voice, which has only become more expressive with time. She makes the most of her wavering timbre on on "Earthquake"'s poignant meditations and on "Sketch Artist," where she turns from soft to steely in a flash. Conversely, she cuts loose on "Hungry Baby," a nervy, sexy rave-up that's far wilder than the deadpan affect she often cultivated in the past. Elsewhere, No Home Record proves just as challenging as Body/Head's music. "Get Yr Life Back" borrows some of that duo's drifting drones for its harrowing mix of sensuality and desperation; on "Don't Play It," her alienation in the wake of late-stage capitalism is underscored by subterranean beats that sound like they're going to consume her at any moment. With its raw edges and open ends, No Home Record exposes the deepest levels of Gordon's art, and they're more thought-provoking and bracing than ever.

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