Courtesy of the artist
Had to dig into into the Internet's archive for a photo of Sonic Youth featuring Jim O'Rourke (far right). He plays bass in "Out and In," originally recorded in 2000.
Had to dig into into the Internet's archive for a photo of Sonic Youth featuring Jim O'Rourke (far right). He plays bass in "Out and In," originally recorded in 2000. Courtesy of the artist
The best compilations are events. They mark a point in time, yet never feel dated when we look back. Reissue labels like Numero Group and Soul Jazz are master cratediggers which unearth obscure or forgotten histories, but I'm drawn to labels and curators that are in the moment, daring to present a movement as it's happening. It's almost as if they're tempting longevity.
As Three Lobed Recordings celebrates 10 years this summer, its hefty four-vinyl-LP box set — Not the Spaces You Know, But Between Them — provides a reminder of where noise and psychedelic music has been in the last decade and where it's going. It's in the "where noise and psychedelic music has been" that we premiere Sonic Youth's "Out and In," a spontaneously composed 12-minute noise-rock jam from 2000 that feels like a summation of the band's career. Recorded during soundtrack sessions for the Olivier Assayas film Demonlover, "Out and In" captures that crucial six-year period when Jim O'Rourke was the fifth member of Sonic Youth. O'Rourke was somewhat of a wild card: He was the melodic grounding (as you'll hear in his quite musical bass playing in this song), but he could also tear Sonic Youth apart, bit by bit.
I emailed guitarist and vocalist Lee Ranaldo about Sonic Youth's contributions to the box set (the other song is "In and Out," recorded just last year).
Both Thurston [Moore] and I had previously done records with Three Lobed — mine was called Maelstrom From Drift, a collection of various recorded works of mine through the '00s. We really like a lot of the music that [Three Lobed owner] Cory [Rayborn] puts out. He works with a lot of folks we like a lot or are friends (or collaborators) with, and we find the attention to detail, both sonically and artistically, of a very high quality.
All previously unreleased and all exclusive to these thick slabs of wax, the compilation includes side-long cuts from Eternal Tapestry, Bardo Pond, Steve Gunn and a 20-minute sound collage from Comets on Fire (seriously, guys, make another record), plus contributions from Mouthus, D. Charles Speer & The Helix, Wooden Wand and recordings from Sun City Girls' final U.S. performance.
Listening to these sides, I feel like the compilation is becoming somewhat of a lost art. It makes me sound like an old crank, but something's amiss when any Joe Tumblr can upload a mixtape to his preferred sharing site — MP3s untagged and artwork askew — but all it does is collect the promotional MP3s record labels release to bloggers. There are some great sites that defy this stereotype, but these handout playlists are passive experiences, apathetically edited from what's handed down.
Casey Burns/Courtesy of Three Lobed Recordings
Casey Burns' artwork for Not the Spaces You Know, But Between Them.
Casey Burns' artwork for Not the Spaces You Know, But Between Them. Casey Burns/Courtesy of Three Lobed Recordings
It's indicative of how I heard the middle part of the last decade, but some key compilations from 2004-06 turned my head musically. Time-Lag's long-out-of-print By the Fruits You Shall Know the Roots triple-LP turned my group of friends on to guitarists like Jack Rose and Six Organs of Admittance's Ben Chasny via a CD-R sent by the label to our college radio station, WUOG. I've never been a Devendra Banhart fan, but his Golden Apples of the Sun comp for Arthur Magazine was a watershed for the unfortunately named "freak folk" movement that helped launch the careers of Joanna Newsom and Josephine Foster. And then there were the creative collections from Last Visible Dog (notably, the six-CD Invisible Pyramid: Elegy Box) and Tompkins Square (the still-running Imaginational Anthem series) that explored the world of drone and acoustic guitar music, respectfully.
These compilations captured exploratory moments in situ. Mostly presented without comment, we were left to love and learn from this music, creating our own conversation. Not the Spaces You Know, But Between Them will include liner notes from the excellent writer Marc Masters, which I'm sure will say far more than I ever could, but even just listening to the music unadorned, this is a compilation that celebrates a past and looks ahead.
Not the Spaces You Know, But Between Them comes out sometime in July on Three Lobed Recordings. Stay tuned for another premiere from the compilation in a couple weeks.