Gordon proves that her artistic process isn’t irrevocably tied to a single medium or period in time.
Since disbanding in 2011, the three principal songwriters of Sonic Youth haven’t really strayed far from the sort of music they likely would have made had they stayed together. Sure, there have been dalliances with wiry punk and expansive jam-band work from both Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo, respectively, but for the most part Moore, Ranaldo and Kim Gordon haven’t made anything especially surprising on their own. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing: we are talking about three pioneers in the realm of experimental rock music, but this consistency helps make Gordon’s first proper solo outing No Home Record into a real breath of fresh air. For the first time since her former band’s dissolution, Gordon has produced something that interfaces with modern music trends as often as it hearkens to her storied past.
No Home Record makes its intentions fairly clear right at the beginning. Once the stuttering, glitchy beats of “Sketch Artist” come in, it’s evident that Gordon is playing in relatively uncharted territory. Indeed, most of No Home Record relies on electronic beats; there’s very little in the way of organic instrumentation to be found here. This in itself wouldn’t necessarily be a strange path for Gordon to follow, given that she has experimented with this kind of stuff before with Ciccone Youth, among other projects. However, No Home Record isn’t necessarily a call back to the early days of electronic experimentation; this is a record very much grounded in what’s happening in the genre now. “Cookie Butter” comes to life over a club beat cribbed from Chicago’s footwork scene, while “Paprika Pony” builds itself around a trap beat. In another artist’s hands, No Home Record could become a mainstream pop record, or at least the kind of album that would fit comfortably alongside more conventional takes on electronica.
But this is a Kim Gordon record, and her M.O. is always to deliver the unexpected. As such, No Home Record’s beat-driven musical playgrounds serve as the backing to Gordon’s deliberately ambiguous poetry. Often eschewing the concept of a vocal melody entirely, Gordon spends most of the album in her lower register, playing with images and offering lines that leave the listener to infer if she’s really talking about herself or just playing a character. The most explicit she gets is on “Air BnB,” the most conventional-sounding song here which doubles as a screed against gentrification killing the urban arts scenes from which she came up. Otherwise, Gordon plays things cool and mysterious. The list of grievances that make up “Get Yr Life Back” could be directed outward, inward, or in both directions, but Gordon offers no hints about whether her words are prescriptive or self-criticizing.
It’s entirely possible that No Home Record is the sort of art that exists for its own sake. For as much as Gordon puts herself into her work, she’s always kept herself at enough of a distance that no one of her songs or pieces can really encapsulate her. What is revelatory about the album, though, is how enthusiastically Gordon throws herself into new genres and styles; in doing so, she proves that her artistic process isn’t irrevocably tied to a single medium or period in time.