Improvisations by Charles Hayward & Thurston Moore

Release date: November 10, 2017
Label: Care In The Community Recordings

‘Improvisations’ is something of a ‘does what it say on the tin’ exercise featuring, as you’ll have gathered, a series of improvisations by veteran experimental types Charles Hayward and Thurston Moore. They haven’t even troubled themselves to come up with titles for the separate tracks either, simply listing them in order as A1-3 and B1-4. Best known for This Heat and Sonic Youth respectively they both have a dizzyingly long list of other projects and collaborations to their names.

In recent years Hayward seems to have got ever busier, a new project or collaboration every time you see his name, becoming almost a grandfatherly figure to the wilder reaches of the UK underground. Most notably through the Anonymous Bash project based at Islington Mill who I’ve been lucky enough to see play both transcendent and, well, slightly disappointingly meandering sets. Such is the nature of the beast.

Earlier this year Moore released ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Consciousness‘ which, from the title on in, seemed to find him relaxing into the more familiar elements of his playing and mixing them with classic rock. Always a trouble making student at the school of rock he seemed calmer, more at peace with rock ‘n’ roll and his relationship with it. It’s a laidback comfy pair of slippers of a record and weirdly I don’t mean that as a criticism. I think it’s his best post Sonic Youth record, in fact it’s the best thing any of them have done since. Anyways, that chilled dude Thurston didn’t show up for this session, No-Wave-Art-Noise Thurston did.

Made in an afternoon this album was the third time the two had played together. Obviously such bold and seasoned experimentalists could have introduced all manner of unexpected elements, and I for one would be interested to hear them do something acapella, but they stick to their personal strong suits and beat the hell out of the drums and guitar. They make a glorious, invigorating noise. It begins floating in on a tremolo drone, Moore pinging the headstock and scraping his pick along the wound strings to coax out an atmosphere, it’s a minute and a half before Hayward comes in, not with any soft, jazzy, foot-finding but firm and steady, pushing an unfussy beat. By about the 5 min mark they’ve built up a fierce squall which breaks up collapsing in on itself. Shortly the drums steady the ship and drag the beat for a second run in, Moore getting remarkable bell like sounds from his guitar. ‘A2’ is two and half joyous minutes of freeform art punk that kicks off right in your face, burning outwards from a simple riff before it spins out into a crash.

Inevitably perhaps, it all recalls Sonic Youth more than any of Hayward’s projects, ‘A3’ starts with a couple of minutes worth of the kind of feedback sucker punch that opened ‘100%’. Swarming guitar and hissing cymbals push upwards to a crescendo, floor toms evoking ‘Schizophrenia’ and other ghost images of ‘Sister’ flash by. The second side brings more of the same, crashing in head first and hammering onwards. Hayward’s drumming is propulsive and urgent, constantly moving things on but clean, free of showy fills or bombast. The mastery and sure footedness of both is impressive throughout.

Huge walls of guitar noise and restless drums bring an even more aggressive start to ‘B2’ pushing it forwards into beautiful splintering noise winding to a sweetly in sync stop-on-a-dime finish. They don’t let up on the noise and intensity until the very last track where, at last, softly rolling drums and more abstracted twangs open up some space, gradually dissolving in cymbal washes and gently plucked guitar. From a certain perspective this is a couple of guys who should really be old enough to know better getting together and making up a fearsome racket as they go along. And there are people who will tut as if that’s a bad thing. I can’t help finding it pretty heartening and inspiring even if they hadn’t bothered to record or release any of it but ‘Improvisations’ is a consistently engaging and often thrilling listen. Maybe next time for the sweet harmonising vocal record.

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