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Sunday Night Live: Kim Gordon and Bill Nace return to the Valley with new Body/Head album, ‘The Switch’

  • Body/Head’s second studio album, “The Switch.”  

  • Body/Head’s Kim Gordon and Bill Nace. David Black



Arts & Culture Editor
Thursday, July 19, 2018

Last month, Kim Gordon appeared on Comedy Central’s “The Opposition With Jordan Klepper” to discuss, among other things, the women’s revolt under Trump, her new film, “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot,” and her latest album, “The Switch,” which was released last week by Matador Records. “It’s sort of post-Beatles,” she joked on the show.

The joke lies in the absurdity of that comparison. Her second studio album with Bill Nace — they call themselves Body/Head, an obscure reference to a phrase she once read in a book about the French filmmaker Catherine Breillat — is as much about mood as it is about music, an echoing, elusive and, depending on your personal taste, enchanting/alienating experience, with droning guitars and dissonant soundscapes. And it was recorded right here in Western Massachusetts with engineer Justin Pizzoferrato, completing a talented trifecta of musicians with Valley ties.

Gordon, of course, is a legendary presence in these parts, having spent many years living and raising a family in Northampton with her ex-husband and former Sonic Youth bandmate, Thurston Moore. Nace, too, is a former Valley resident, having moved to Northampton in 1999 — he went to the University of Massachsuetts Amherst for a year before dropping out to focus on music — and stayed for about two decades. “I had some friends in Northampton, and I liked the idea of being in a small town, getting a basement to play in, not dealing with all the things you have to deal with to make music in the city,” he said during a phone interview (Gordon also joined the call). Before long, he met Gordon and Moore in the area. “It’s a small scene, and we kind of moved there at the same time. I met Thurston first, and through him met Kim. It was pretty organic. We actually all started playing together, and then Kim and I started playing as a duo later.” 

When they’re not touring together, the two now live in different states — Gordon moved back to Los Angeles a few years ago, and Nace lives in Philadelphia — but their history helps explain why Gordon, in a recent article in The Guardian, described playing with Nace as feeling “natural, like coming home.” 

“We talk about food,” she told the Bulletin. “I mean, we’re just friends, and we hang out.”

Gordon and Nace formed Body/Head in 2012, after both Sonic Youth and Gordon’s marriage to Moore dissolved. Body/Head released its debut album, “Coming Apart,” in 2013. It has taken another five years for the band to release their follow-up, with “The Switch,” which Billboard magazine describes as “masterfully produced,” anchored with more confidence than their previous effort: “Gone is the occasional uncertainty that bubbled up on ‘Coming Apart,’ replaced with the assurance of two instrumentalists who’ve spent years on the road together and know exactly how to weave in and out of each other’s space.”

With tracks like “In a Dark Room” and “Change My Brain,” the new album is alternately dreamlike and disturbing, but it ultimately fits together as a cohesive whole.

As Gordon put it: “It’s almost like we laid out a slab of record. [With] the first record, we had just done a lot of touring, and we were trying to bring a lot of what we did live into it; this one, we went ahead and treated it as a separate thing.”

It’s a deep collaboration, which feels like a continuing conversation between the two musicians; a dynamic that they protected during the recording process. “We definitely like to have some immediacy to the energy that’s on the record,” Nace said. “We use the studio, but we try not to get in there and go down wormholes; you know, studio time costs a lot of money, and we try to do things somewhat efficiently. We went in for two or three days, played, took the roughs back, went back and mixed in a day or two.” That sense of immediacy translates to live shows, as well, he added: “We don’t replicate any of the stuff on the record … Playing in front of an audience, you learn very quickly what works and what doesn’t. There’s a learning curve there, and I think it made us stronger.”

Come see for yourself: Body/Head plays this Sunday, July 22, at 8 p.m. at The Root Cellar in Greenfield. “The Root Cellar is cool. We played there last summer — that was fun,” said Gordon, who also shared her appreciation for the local music scene.

“Northampton just has a really good sound to it … it’s kind of unexpected,” she said.

“Electric Eye in Florence is a really great record store,” added Nace, who finds himself in the Northampton area frequently. “It still feels like home in a way.”