"Kim Gordon has no interest in making music for the faint-hearted": with The Collective, Sonic Youth's iconic former vocalist/bassist throws expectations out the window in thrilling fashion

Kim Gordon's second solo album is challenging, claustrophobic and an absolute triumph

Kim Gordon - The Collective
(Image: © Danielle Neu | Matador)

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Few people in this world could make a song out of a packing list without coming across as a pretentious try-hard. In fact, Kim Gordon might be the only person cool enough to combine a power cord, medications and a button-down into a great lyric.

On her second solo album The Collective, the former Sonic Youth vocalist/bassist wreaks havoc with a blistering combination of claustrophobic noise-rock and glitchy trap. Where her debut No Home Record held on to more of the rock elements with which she initially made her name, The Collective throws all expectations out the window in favour of an unrestrained, cutting-edge attack on the senses.

Mixing genres isn’t a novel concept, especially in today’s musical landscape, and yet Gordon’s rough-edged, sharp-cornered poetry feels like unchartered territory. Ultra-modern sounds are well-matched with Gordon’s razor-sharp lyrics exploring big themes as she takes down traditional gender roles in I’m A Man and the modern California lifestyle in Psychedelic Orgasm.

The Collective sees her take her collaboration with producer Justin Raisen to new extreme heights. Raisen, who has previously worked with other maximalists like Charli XCX, Yves Tumor and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, complements Gordon’s relentless musical ambition. So intricate and all-encompassing is The Collective that its soundscapes almost take on a physical form. On I Don’t Miss My Mind, Gordon’s vocals echo and move around you with a claustrophobic intimacy which makes you feel you’re being watched. It’s Dark Inside, as haunting a song as its title would suggest, creates a similarly disturbing atmosphere at the album’s midpoint. The album could well be a futuristic horror soundtrack, putting you on edge at every opportunity. Gordon’s insistent delivery throughout the album is often haunting, as if she’s whispering her thoughts directly in the ear of the listener.

While the majority is a frantic sonic bombardment, there are a few moments of calm. BYE BYE, built around the aforementioned mysterious and slightly unnerving packing list of a woman on the run, and the odd consumerism of Shelf Warmer offer a few moments of quiet on an overwhelmingly chaotic record. But as quickly as these moments lull you into a false sense of security, tracks like The Candy House and The Believers come crashing in. Aggressive and abrasive, they're proof that Kim Gordon has no interest in making music for the faint-hearted.

By the final, ethereal notes of Dream Dollar, Kim Gordon has proven herself to be a master of atmosphere with a collection of songs that you feel as much as hear. Of course, not everybody will warm to the sensory overload and the feeling of unease that haunts the album from start to finish. But no matter how challenging The Collective is, it's a record that will stay with you long after your first listen.

Freelance writer, Louder

In addition to contributing to Louder, Vicky writes for The Line of Best Fit, Gigwise, New Noise Magazine and more.