Getty (x3) Fans at Dinosaur Jr.'s concert Saturday night at New York's…
- Posted on Apr 18th 2012 2:30PM by Robert Ham
Samuel Dietz, Redferns
But there's something about the release of guitarist Lee Ranaldo's Between the Times and the Tides that seems to signal a sea change within the Sonic Youth ranks, mostly due to the album coming on the heels of founding members Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon's recent divorce.
Add to it that, unlike Ranaldo's previous solo releases, Tides is coming out on a prominent indie label (Matador) and is his first collection of pop-oriented material (his other efforts have been primarily spoken-word or experimental affairs), it's leaving many to wonder if the 56-year-old guitarist and songwriter is looking towards a life after Sonic Youth.
"It's up in the air," says Ranaldo, speaking to Spinner from his home in Brooklyn. "We're taking a much-needed break and leaving it at that. We're not saying anything final, but we're not discussing anything for the future either. We're just letting it be."
In all fairness, people would likely be paying attention to Ranaldo's album no matter what the situation was with his other band. Tides is a sparkling collection of ragged folk and psychedelically warped rock, lifted even higher by the 56-year-old songwriter's poetic lyrical imagery. And in contrast to his wiry contributions to Sonic Youth's albums, there's a relaxed quality to these songs that nicely mirrors the ease with which they came together for Ranaldo.
As he says in the liner notes to the album, the first songs he wrote came as he was preparing to do a solo acoustic show in France in 2010. That performance, he says, "sparked something in me. So I spent the summer working on other acoustic songs and by September had three or four in various stages of completion."
"I had been doing this interview about the longstanding Canadian group, the Nihilist Spasm Band, and on our way to the studio to record the interview, [Kelly Jeffery] snapped a couple of pictures of me. She showed me that picture a week later, and I really loved something about it. I just felt like if I ever got it together to make an album of these songs, this would be a cool cover picture."
From there, everything started unfolding naturally as he brought in a variety of musician friends to help him flesh out the songs, including former SY members Bob Bert and Jim O'Rourke, Wilco guitarist Nels Cline, and keyboardist John Medeski who makes up one third of funk-jazz group Medeski, Martin, and Wood.
"I didn't want to call in a bunch of session men," Ranaldo says. "I was more concerned with surrounding myself with supportive people and being in a comfortable zone because I was building this up on my own."
Ranaldo will continue to build on this solo success when he ventures out in April to open up the East Coast tour dates by M. Ward, joined by his SY bandmate Steve Shelley and guitarist Alan Licht.
Beyond that, Ranaldo isn't terribly concerned, even when it comes to the possibility of Sonic Youth breaking up.
"Our lives and careers are so intertwined that, even if nothing is happening as far as new recordings and new performances, we'll be tied to each other. We've had an amazing 30-year run. We'll see what the future holds."