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Lee Ranaldo and William Hooker
Clouds
Victo

Taken from a live performance at the 1997 Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville, Canada’s premier free-jazz and improvisation showcase, the second recording from this guitar/drum duo originates from dark, urban nightmares rather than the lofty, spiritual plane the title indicates.

William Hooker beats his kit like a furious, clamorous poltergeist. The Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo builds upon wind chime–like strumming and abrasive, string-scraping manipulations, as well as effects pedals and distortion boxes. The disc possesses a more complete sound with multiple points of interest when the two are joined by Jim O’Rourke on Farfisa organ and Gianni Gebbia on saxophone. “No Apples Fell” begins with Gebbia wailing like a cross between an ambulance siren and a cat in heat before sweeping, thunderous drums, cosmic-sounding guitar, and shrill synthesizer pull the song into a deafening black hole of noise.

Both Hooker and Ranaldo are know for their forays into poetry, something this recording does not escape. Ranaldo plays the Humphrey Bogart–like, timeworn cynic role, and Hooker, the idealistic mystic. Evoking nostalgic snapshots of objects, places, and desires, the verse comes off as silly and somewhat embarrassing mostly due to the poets’ earnest, serious tones.

More bright moments appear on the disc, but for the most part, the music and words lack direction and intensity. Viewing this concert firsthand undoubtedly would have been more compelling.

Originally published in Jazziz in July 1998.


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