On December 3 and 4, 1996, tape manipulator and sound collagist Phil Milstein got together with Sonic Youth guitarist, singer, and songwriter Thurston Moore to take a musical trip. They didn’t physically travel far to record their two duets, one at the Iron Morse Music Hall in Northampton, MA and the other at The Middle East in Cambridge, MA. But what they created might help send a listener to the inner or outer limits.
Their recordings stand as the ultimate in “Anti-Pop” music: There are no 3-4 minute chart-friendly singles, no twenty-something starlets singing passages from their diary, no breaks featuring this month’s hot rap star. What you do have is two middle-aged dudes who recorded two very long tracks (Vol. 1 is 42 minutes long and Vol. 2 is 44 minutes) that set aside verses and hooks in favor of an approach similar to drone and noise music, something they’ve both been doing for decades.
Moore layers his guitar improvisations and effects over Milstein’s found-object sound structures as musical themes and ideas drift by like clouds. Their interactions are not unlike what jazz musicians do when they improvise, listening and responding to each other through the sounds they make.
Both volumes of this 2-record set are the kind of music where you can put your headphones on, press “play,” and lose track of time for a while. It’s good stuff if you need to add some active yet low-key abstraction to your life.