Versions Of Modern Performance (Matador/Remote Control)
WHENEVER SOMEONE GOES ON a bit of a rant about how music has been killed by a couple of decades now of easy access that has little or nothing to do with judgements about quality and accepted canon etc – once downloaded, now streamed, algorithm-ed, whatever it is. You’ve heard it, maybe done it yourself – I find myself running a counter line.
Yes, I say, you’re right, it’s sadly true that we’ve got a generation that doesn’t understand paying money for music means keeping musicians able to make music, though that “generation” is actually many generations because it’s amazing how 30somethings, 40somethings, 50somethings quickly adjusted to getting music for free or as near-to-free as possible.
And it’s true that history disappears and everything is now, or at least yesterday, so a lot of yoof don’t really know what decade a particular song they’ve heard came from, don’t really care, and are quite happy living without the certified approval of all of us “tastemakers”. What’s more they may choose to pull together a sound of their own that sucks up influences from three, four … hell, six or seven different acts from different places or different times.
Outrageous? Actually, excellent. Which brings us to Chicago trio, Horsegirl, all still teenagers and one of them still in high school: Penelope Lowenstein, Nora Cheng and Gigi Reece.
For them, indie/underground/non-mainstream rock and alternative pop of the decades since the mid-1980s is a playground of endless accessibility and possibilities. For them, guitar/bass/drums are not anachronisms, but nor are they holy writ. For them, boundaries, just like ironies, are flexible and capable of being inserted or withdrawn as the mood takes them.
For us then, this debut album is too busy, too multifaceted, too oblivious to be anything but a really enjoyable exploration that may sometimes miss its mark – it’s a debut album remember, it’s hardly going to be flawless or without the mark of its inspirations – but always feels like it’s filled with the fun of (their) discovery and (our) re-discovery.
Drums and bass mostly play through rather than lead, their emphasis on filling only the necessary spaces, and the vocals move in a narrow range from mixed-in-extra instrument to semi-opaque contributor in a style that traverses the Atlantic and the Channel. Meanwhile guitars can scratch (the post-punk initiation ever devolving of Anti-glory), can burn (a Dinosaur Jr magma flow that doesn’t quite drown the resilient bass of Billy) or smoulder (Bog Bog 1’s blurry atmosphere), and they can be non-existent (the brief, piano playfulness of The Guitar Is Dead 3).
Sometimes you’re thrown to the edges of a rriot (the bent pop of Dirtbag Transformation) or a trip (Option 8’s almost joyful blend of psych and Spector) or you can take your chances with the low hum/rising noise of drone zone era Sonic Youth (albeit considerably shorter than a standard SY song) of the hypnotic The Fall Of Horsegirl, where the vocal line is little more than a count to six.
Maybe you’ll hook on to the shoegazing rumble and almost fey melodies of World Of Pots And Pans and Beautiful Song; maybe you’ll be tempted to dance loosely to Live And Ski and sing along to Homage To Birdnoculars. Or maybe you’ll just rub your chin sagely to the art shape of Electrolocation 2.
You can pick and choose without needing to explain. After all, that’s what Horsegirl have done.
APPLE MUSIC: Listen to Horsegirl – Versions Of Modern Performance