Body/Head’s The Switch is the creepiest yet most addicting album you’ll hear this year. The dueling guitar duo of Kim Gordon (of Sonic Youth fame) and Bill Nace create beckoning experimental soundscapes with droning, effects-ridden guitar and haunting, barely sung vocals.
Unlike many noise rock albums, this one holds small nuggets of melody within its barren, minimalist sound. In a swirling sea of echoing, looping, chopping and reversing, one may identify a traditional chord progression, like on the surprisingly bluesy “You Don’t Need,” but the sense of comfort is fleeting, as Nace’s guitar (which is completely improvised) breaks the pattern at just the right moment and forms almost a completely new song, sending chills down your spine. Unfortunately, the somewhat poor mixing takes away from this experience at some points.
The low-fi sound is welcome, but some guitars would have sounded a lot more engaging with less hollow tones or more balanced volumes. Gordon’s lyrics are as abstract as the guitar, if not more so. Some of the songs consist of maybe eight different words, and leave the listener to forge a meaning from the strange bits and pieces they are fed. The vocals are often just as tortured by effects as the guitars are, which adds to the ghastly atmosphere, but makes it damn near impossible to understand what Gordon is actually saying.
But maybe that’s the point; we can look for melody, reason, theme and other qualities of music in The Switch, and we may find the fossils of those concepts in some areas, but at the end of the day, this is a cold, nightmarish hellscape of a guitar and a voice, a body and a head.