The first solo album from Kim Gordon, formerly of Sonic Youth, is an odd, dissonant, yet somehow supremely fascinating piece of work. The album, titled No Home Record in homage to Chantal Akerman’s personal documentary No Home Movie, consists of nine songs that range from brutally tough to intensely intimate. Above all else, No Home Record has an energy that pushes it relentlessly forward. Even when the album takes what appear to be pauses, those quiet moments vibrate with a contagious kinetic tension.
The album is primarily a two-person steered ship, with Gordon collaborating on all songs with producer Justin Raisen. The album is nothing if not produced, with the musical tapestry behind Gordon’s lyrics and performance constantly shifting and contorting into odd, mesmerizing shapes. Gordon’s lyrics throughout No Home Record are often abstract, with the experience of the album I think relying much more on the combination of these opaque lyrics with varieties of instrumentation. The entire experience results in something like a musical version of a modern art painting, something like a Rothko. While painters like him asked, if I combine these colors, what feeling does that produce in you, Gordon is testing to see what we experience when these sometimes disparate words and precise combinations of guitars, loops, and bass come together in peculiar ways.
The most disorienting aspect of the album might be its complete lack of smooth transitions between songs. Some of the quietest songs are bookended by industrial assaults, without any pause in-between. The first track, “Sketch Artist,” opens with intriguing orchestral sounds that soon evolve into industrial rock fuzz. You don’t realize quite how oppressive the sound is until halfway through the song; the industrial nature falls away to be replaced by incredibly soft, melodic music. That’s followed, however, by “Air BnB,” which sustains its massive rock performance for its entire runtime. “Air BnB” is one of the most relatively accessible songs on the album, giving you thrash-ready energy levels and surprisingly tight drumbeats.
“Paprika Pony” is the first entirely subdued track of the album, but in a way that is still very dark, rhythmic, and subtly suggestive. When Kim Gordon decides to whisper instead of scream, she packs just as much of a punch. Speaking of screaming, however, the intense track “Murdered Out” harnesses Gordon’s raw power to efficiently remind you of another punk’s statement that “anger is an energy.”
The influences of a variety of punk and art-rock forebears can be felt on this album, but not in a way that implies shallow hero worship. Rather, Gordon’s influences assuredly run deep, and her ability to suggest these references is more likely to do with her equal talent and skill more so than any intentional cribbing. For instance, the mid-album track “Don’t Play It” sounds like a lost Prodigy track as the rhythmic thumping that permeates the song places you in a frantic rave no matter where you’re listening. This song has a significant contribution from Jake Messina Meginsky, and his combination of tape loops, bass, and drums assuredly brings a unique texture to this track that separates it from the rest of the album.
Gordon also recalls the pseudo spoken word music of Laurie Anderson in her final track, “Get Yr Life Back.” This track is the culmination of a late-album comedown that starts with the prior track “Earthquake,” which is the closest thing to what might be called a “ballad” here. With enigmatic lyrics like “I’ve got sand in my heart for you,” “Earthquake” is a last-minute glimpse into the heart of the beast that Gordon otherwise presents on No Home Record. The “beastly” invocation isn’t an insult; instead, it’s invigorating to hear a musician past the age of even 30 create a record that is fueled by such energy, noise, and even some sense of simmering rage.
No Home Record is an odd creation itself. At points, the album feels like a crudely constructed gem created by an Edward Scissorhands-like machine that doesn’t quite know what it’s doing but manages to make something unique in its efforts anyway. I don’t know if No Home Record is an album that you can easily listen to for repeated enjoyment (ignoring the intense subjectivity of that word). Yet, I am drawn to it as if it’s this kind of gem or salvaged treasure to be examined under a microscope. What is it? What is it doing? Is this music? I don’t know, but I know that somehow it all works, on its own terms, at least.