It is not the sound that will shock you upon first listen to Trees Outside the Academy, Thurston Moore’s first solo release since 1995. You expect to hear disjointed crushing riffs or out-of-tune melodies that are beautiful because of their sheer awkwardness when listening to Moore play, these are the foundations of what make his day job with New York City noise merchants Sonic Youth so interesting, and what we have grown accustomed to from him. What is shocking is Moore’s weapon of choice on the album – an acoustic guitar, the likes of which is rarely ever heard on a Sonic Youth release.
Moore’s use of an acoustic allows nuances of his songs, which are normally buried beneath a barrage of sound, to finally step forward and be heard. Stripping off this layer reveals a depth and complexity that is usually hidden. Beneath is a series of simple, yet heartfelt tunes, with the emphasis on song. Rarely has Moore allowed his songwriting to be so open and revealing (perhaps an all-acoustic tour from Sonic Youth is called for?) But for those who still like their feedback drenched disjointed riffs don’t fret, Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley is along for the ride, as well as J. Mascis from Dinosaur Jr., whose home studio the album was recorded in and who provides guitar on a number of songs. Both of them add a familiar feel to the proceedings.
The other star besides Moore’s acoustic, is the violin of Samara Lubelski that provides a haunting ethereal backdrop. Lubelski’s violin creates some of the abstract weirdness on Trees that is normally delivered by Moore and his volatile playing, but is absent at times. Trees Outside the Academy is a greatly appreciated, (slight) step away from the norm for Thurston Moore, and illustrates one thing; it is not the weapon of choice that proves lethal, but the master who wields it.
Trees Outside the Academy is out now on Ecstatic Peace Records.