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SYR 4: Goodbye 20th Century

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Album Review

As a farewell to a century of musical innovation, Sonic Youth devote a double album to covering legendary avant-garde recordings such as John Cage's "Six," James Tenney's "Having Never Written a Note for Percussion," and Christian Wolff's "Edges." As a further token of gratitude, Sonic Youth had other avant-garde musicians such as William Winant collaborate with them on these covers. The result is a minimal album of silence occasionally interrupted by strange dissonance that quietly reaps noisy havoc on your mind. The many collaborators make Goodbye 20th Century a curious listen — certainly not your standard Sonic Youth album. Actually, it's not too far removed from the other SYR EPs, especially in terms of production sound. But anyone looking for standard fare here is going to be greatly disappointed. These aren't songs — they're compositions and they're performed as such. Alt-rock this is not.


Formed: 1981 in New York, NY

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Sonic Youth were one of the most unlikely success stories of underground American rock in the '80s. Where contemporaries R.E.M. and Hüsker Dü were fairly conventional in terms of song structure and melody, Sonic Youth began their career by abandoning any pretense of traditional rock & roll conventions. Borrowing heavily from the free-form noise experimentalism of the Velvet Underground and the Stooges, and melding it with a performance art aesthetic borrowed from the New York post-punk avant-garde,...
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