Show Review: Chelsea Light Moving At The Horseshoe Tavern

By Adam Bernhardt

Following the acrimonious break-up of Sonic Youth that accompanied the equally scandalous break up of indie rock’s perennial it-couple Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon, only a few rumblings had been heard from either one of them in terms of musical output. This year however, Moore has formed a new band called Chelsea Light Moving, a quintessentially obscure reference: the name comes from a moving company once owned by Philip Glass.

Their self-titled debut dropped earlier this year, and is not far removed from the terrain covered by Moore in Sonic Youth. The last few years of Sonic Youth provided releases that generally adopted a moodier and somewhat laid back sound, quite removed from their earlier nosier incarnation, though with Chelsea Light Moving, Moore once again uses a more violent palette in his songs. The influence of heavy metal is a particular curiosity amongst the queasy and uneasy jangle of his signature detuned guitars. On tour to promote the album, they dropped by Toronto’s historic Horseshoe Tavern with Massachusetts’ Speedy Ortiz on September 15.

The night started with Speedy Ortiz, who share many similarities with Chelsea Light Moving, in that they are both touring to promote albums released this year and share an unmistakably early ‘90s noise rock sound. They played a tight, fast set that left no doubts about their recent critical success.

Chelsea Light Moving began their set with a subdued freeform noise jam before launching into the nauseous stop and start dynamics of “Groovy and Linda”.  They played with a tightness and ferocity as they switched between anxious lulls and angular harshness, often within the same song. They also took the opportunity to introduce newer material, one piece relying on the poetry of one John Donne, which was called “The Ecstasy” and another more stripped down hardcore number known as “No Go”, which is to be the theme song of a board game they are planning on releasing.  Moore explained himself by stating that they are making a board game since “no one buys records anymore”. Also of note was that the game will be made of “wood, plastic, and meat”.

Interestingly, the band took breaks from their material and would occasionally play songs from Moore’s solo works, some of which were beautifully compelling due to Samara Lubelski’s haunting violin playing. This was particularly startling on the freeform noise jam which closed the set, as guitar feedback and scraping violin both reached the same pitch and were held aloft in a wavering cry of sound.

One could not help but notice however, just how much of this is a THURSTON MOORE project.  Not only was most of the merchandise on sale Thurston Moore solo albums, but there was only one microphone on stage: Moore’s. It’s not hard to extrapolate a bit and assume from this that Moore having the only voice on stage probably reflects Chelsea Light Moving’s creative process.  However the presence of new material is encouraging and the interplay between the violin and the guitar feedback leaves a promising hint of what might be next for the band.  With their show at the Horseshoe, Chelsea Light Moving proved beyond doubt that they can step outside the shadow of Sonic Youth.

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