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Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo divulges his five favorite guitarists ever
06:53 am


Lee Ranaldo

On the occasion of his Red Bull-sponsored concert tomorrow evening at The Basement in Atlanta (supported by a trio of Atlanta bands: Lyonnais, Faun and a Pan Flute, and Deadcat), Lee Ranaldo graciously bestowed Red Bull with a discursive list of his five favorite guitarists ever. Who knew that you could find such gems at Red Bull’s website?

By the bye, Ranaldo is playing as Lee Ranaldo and the Dust; they’re supporting their 2013 album Last Night on Earth.

Here’s the list, with each “axe-wielder” followed by a representative musical selection of my choosing:

Glenn Branca
Ranaldo says: “When I first met him, he was playing guitar in no-wave bands like the Theoretical Girls. When I started playing with him in the early 1980s, he was using multiple guitars and tuning them as though he were creating a choir. This was all untried at the time. He wasn’t a classic guitar player in the sense that he could play like Clapton or people like that, but he had the vision of a sound and he adapted the instrument to do it.”

Glenn Branca, “Lesson No. 1 for Electric Guitar”


Tom Verlaine
Ranaldo says: “I grew up playing guitar but at a certain point around the mid-1970s, music got pretty fat and bloated. All the arena rock stuff was something I didn’t relate to and I tuned out of music for a while. But the first Television record was one that knocked me out and made me want to go back to playing and being in a band again. I felt like he synthesised so many different styles, like the San Francisco psychedelic scene to jazz influences like John Coltrane. Sometime, it was like he was trying to play sax solos on the guitar.”

Television, “Marquee Moon”


Joni Mitchell
Ranaldo says: “Joni’s style of open tunings has been a huge influence on me. It’s very unconventional and unique to her. When you hear her playing, you know it’s Joni. She’s not especially showy but among other guitar players, Joni is highly regarded. A lot of people think the Sonic Youth song Hey Joni is a tribute to her but it’s only in the title. When we were writing that song, the idea was to re-approach the song Hey Joe from a female perspective and Thurston [Moore] jokingly suggested calling it Hey Joni. But the lyrics are not about Joni specifically.”

Joni Mitchell, “Both Sides Now”


Django Reinhardt
Ranaldo says: “It’s nothing I could touch in terms of my own playing but Reinhardt’s playing is something that has become quite important to me, if only because he showed what can be done on the guitar. When I hear his music, it feels like something magical is happening.”

Django Reinhardt, “Heavy Artillery (Artillerie Lourde)”


Carrie Brownstein
Ranaldo says: “There’s something very fresh about her playing and there’s an energy she has when she’s on stage that I’ve always got a kick out of. She’s one of those players who switches between lead and rhythm, which is something that I also try to do. I hear rumours of a Sleater-Kinney resurgence so hopefully we may get to see her play again very soon.”

Sleater-Kinney, “Not What You Want”

After all that, let’s give a listen to the thing that all of these manifold influences combined to produce, that is, the musical output of Ranaldo himself. Here’s Lee Ranaldo and the Dust, “Ambulancer”:

via Brooklyn Vegan

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Flaming Lips, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr, & more: 1991 comp CD accurately predicted ‘90s indie rock

Wayne Coyne double neck
In August of 1991, a month before Nevermind was released, and when hair metal was still pretty much the only thing on the radio that bore any resemblance to rock, a tiny indie label called No.6 Records released a compilation of guitar instrumentals called Guitarrorists. It featured names that would be familiar only to resolute undergroundists at the time, but many of them would soon find mainstream attention—these guitarists were members of bands like Afghan Whigs, The Butthole Surfers, The Flaming Lips, Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth, and other, less immortal bands that would nonetheless experience some success within a few years of the comp’s release. And it should go without saying that a lot of it is fantastic.
Guitarrorists CD Cover
Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne’s “I Want to Kill My Brother: The Cymbal Head” is an insane, noisy, and dynamic journey through Coyne’s very strange mind:

Wayne Coyne - “I Want to Kill My Brother: The Cymbal Head”

Big Black/Rapeman/Shellac guitarist and Nirvana recording engineer Steve Albini’s contribution “Nutty About Lemurs” sounds unsurprisingly abrasive and, well, very very Albinilike.

Steve Albini - “Nutty About Lemurs”

A big curveball on the album is “A Little Ethnic Song,” by Dinosaur Jr’s J. Mascis, which sounds nothing like the first thing you thought when you read his name. And it’s really wonderful.

J. Mascis - “A Little Ethnic Song”

Tom Hazelmeyer never became a household name playing guitar for Halo Of Flies, but as big boss man at Amphetamine Reptile Records, he shaped the sound of the ‘90s bludgeon-rock underground as much as anyone. He’s lately turned up on the rock radar again, guesting on guitar with the Brisbane band No Anchor. His Guitarrorists contribution is the skin-flaying “Guitar Wank-Off #13.”

Tom Hazelmeyer - “Guitar Wank-Off #13”

Interesting for how far this selection sticks out from the crowd, and for how lovely it is amid the sea of distortion that is much of the comp, here’s “I Really Can’t Say,” by Kathy Korniloff from Two Nice Girls, a folk-rock band from Austin, notably loud-and-proud out lesbians at a time when that kind of openness was still highly unusual, and far riskier than it is today. They broke up in 1992, but scored some college radio love with a gem of an anthem called “I Spent My Last $10 on Birth Control and Beer.” 

Kathy Korniloff - “I Really Can’t Say”

Lastly, though there are contributions on the CD from all three guitar-wielding Sonic Youths, only one of them seems to have found its way online. Here’s an appropriately stark fan video for Lee Ranaldo’s pensive acoustic solo “Here”:

Lee Ranaldo - “Here”

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Want to sound like Sonic Youth? Lee Ranaldo wants to teach you guitar!
10:48 am


Lee Ranaldo

Lee Ranaldo, of Sonic Youth and The Dust, will be offering a guitar workshop at New York City’s grooviest record store, Other Music.

It’s one night only, October 28, and it’s free!

The Dan Smith in the poster refers to a guitar teacher whose flyers were ubiquitous on walls throughout Manhattan and light-heartedly parodied by Jon Stewart among others.

Hey Lee, that poster looks like shit and it’s perfect.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Plentiful new Sonic Youth product despite total lack of extant Sonic Youth
11:48 am


Sonic Youth
Kim Gordon
Thurston Moore
Lee Ranaldo

Despite the massively influential band’s breakup (or hiatus - it’s never been made clear) a year and a half ago, Sonic Youth fans have had no shortage of releases to keep us happy. This autumn in particular is rife with opportunity.

As reported in The Independent and elsewhere, Sonic Youth bassist/singer Kim Gordon and experimental guitarist Bill Nace will release their collaborative album Coming Apart under the band name Body/Head on Tuesday, September 10th. Dates for a short tour are listed on their web site, and “Actress,” a song from the album, has been released to YouTube.

Meanwhile, guitarist Lee Ranaldo has also been a very very busy SY, having released last summer’s lovely, droney album On Jones Beach with Glacial, and he’s now on the cusp of dropping Last Night On Earth, the second release from his band The Dust. (Their first, Between the Times and the Tides, was released in March of 2012.) There’s long been a dismissive “Oh, it’s a Lee song” attitude among a certain camp within SY’s fandom, but if you’re in that cohort, seriously, listen to “Lecce, Leaving” all the way through and tell me it’s not awesome: 

One of Thurston Moore’s multiple projects post-SY, Chelsea Light Moving, has announced a fall tour as well, though their album has been available since spring. Dates listed on Matador Records’ blog are different from those on the band’s home page, so probably best to confirm appearances with the venue nearest you. Along with Moore, the band features Hush Arbors’ main man Keith Wood and multi-instrumentalist Samara Lubelski.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment