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Body/Head - The Switch Music Album Reviews

On their most purposeful record to date, Kim Gordon and Bill Nace conjure a complete sonic ecosystem where they control the weather.

It feels odd to talk about control when discussing Body/Head. Kim Gordon and Bill Nace’s grinding guitar duets seem primed for letting go, with both members surrendering their musical egos to the flow of their noises and textures. They get out of their own way, carving out ample time for each piece to gestate, grow, and ripen. Dig deeper into their songs, though, and the discipline in Gordon and Nace’s approach emerges. No matter how far they stretch, their tones and rhythms always cohere, making their music as mesmerizing as a hypnotist’s swinging clock.

You don’t have to venture far below the surface to detect that control on The Switch. It’s Body/Head’s most purposeful record so far, as Gordon and Nace conjure a complete sonic ecosystem where they direct the weather. The most stunning example of this power is the album’s shortest track, “In the Dark Room.” Dense and harrowing, it features the kind of dissonance usually associated with sprawling improv. But, in Nace and Gordon’s hands, these unchartable sounds combine like well-defined movements in a symphony. Their guitars rhyme as if they were trading chord changes rather than thick swaths of noise.

This kind of orchestrated synchronicity is a necessity for Body/Head, because their music is more about building moods and weaving textures than about creating surprises. As abstract as their songs often are, they rely on defined structures to maintain their entrancing focus. That’s why, even though The Switch’s heavy sounds can be dizzying, no moment on the album feels random. One key is Gordon and Nace’s mastery of slowness. Their consistently patient approach is a signature, evoking Tony Conrad’s way of concentrating his tuning by playing deliberately slowly, as well as Earth’s decades-long aversion to rushing through a song.

The intriguing paradox of music played at this glacial pace is that it alters your perception of time, so songs can seem to speed up when their tempo doesn’t actually change. It’s a matter of kinetics rather than clock ticks; shifts in a track’s energy, intensity, and volume create the illusion of acceleration. This is especially true of the moments when Gordon sings, infusing adrenaline into Body/Head’s guitar sounds. On opener “Last Time,” her elongated syllables give a curving shape to warped noise. On closer “Reverse Hard,” her rhythmic glossolalia is sparse, but it elicits a chopping guitar response that becomes the song’s pulse.

The best—and most aptly titled—track on The Switch is the hypnotic “Change My Brain.” Here, Body/Head’s reliance on structure is matched by their fascination with texture. Every granule of sound emanating from Gordon and Nace’s guitars is carefully crafted, and the song’s progression is almost solely a product of these delicate variations. The pair builds a rhythm from clipped feedback, then ride it through waves of distortion that change shape in minute, near-pointillist adjustments. Gordon’s most impassioned singing on the album helps here, too, but it’s the pair’s frame accuracy that makes the track so dramatic. The results are far from predictable, but they serve as further proof that Body/Head are fully in control.

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