If you like your Sonic Youth records to be sprawling and jammy, In/Out/In is the album for you.
Released today through Three Lobed Recordings for the label’s 20th anniversary, In/Out/In is culled from the final decade of Sonic Youth’s illustrious life, proving that the group were still a force to be reckoned with right up to their last breath.
Songs like “In & Out” show off the band’s kosmische roots, with their clanging repetitive beats, Damo Suzuki-like whispers and celestial guitar noodlings. Similarly, the Musique concrète-like “Social Static” sounds like what would happen if Faust were to hijack one of the Grateful Dead’s Space > Feedback jams.
Yet the ultimate push-comes-to-shove highlights on this record for me are the opening and closing tracks. The record begins with a nine and-a-half minute meditative piece called “Basement Contender,” which glides smoothly with sunny, yet roughened guitars and a hypnotically propulsive drum pattern. The piece’s raw lo-fi sound and earthy looseness brings to mind the likes of Träd Gräs och Stenar, and the more recent works of Chris Forsyth, showing that Sonic Youth’s music is truly timeless.
The final track, “Out & In,” on the other hand, starts to edge into almost Bardo Pond territory, with its walls of thunderous fuzz and sludgy riffs. This is Kim Gordon, Thurston Moore and company reaching their ultimate acid rock peak and launching as deeply into the cosmos as any other space rock band. Imagine if Hawkwind was covered by the Melvins, and you’ll get a good idea of what this song sounds like.
There are not many compilations of shelved studio recordings that can be deemed as essential as a band’s foundational set of albums, but In/Out/In is certainly one of those. Sonic Youth fans of all stripes will love this release, as will any devotee of the recent wave of improv-rock artists (especially Ryley Walker, Garcia Peoples and Sunwatchers).
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