It’s “music in flames” says Thurston Moore.
Through the nearly one hour, 30-minute run of By the Fire, Thurston Moore has opened a pandora’s box of oppressiveness, disillusionment, and the ramifications of isolation, all guided by the saving grace of creativity and love. From the first chime of “Hashish” through 14-minute conclusion of “Venus,” By the Fire exposes a deeper dialogue on seclusion, exploring feelings of loss, anxiety, and collectively embracing the present reality—or not.
Pulling in Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley, My Bloody Valentine bassist Deb Googe, Jon Leidecker (“Wobbly”) of Negativland on electronics, guitarist James Sedwards, and drummer Jem Doulton, By The Fire is cautiously optimistic of the times at hand, and our hands in it.
“This presentation certainly was defined by the situation at hand,” Moore tells American Songwriter. “So the music was written and recorded before we found ourselves in a global lockdown as it were. But I don’t really like that word lockdown so much because it’s sort of a jail term and our governance are like prison wardens. It’s also a sort of unhealthy permanence.” Instead, Moore prefers the term “quarantine,” if he must. “Still, lockdown is kind of funny,” he says. “It’s very Hollywood.”
Easing into his seventh solo album, the cooler, lo-fi “Hashish” is what Moore describes as “an ode to the narcotic of love in our shared responsibility to each other during isolation.” Still drifting into the more sonic riff of “Cantaloupe,” accompanied by a skater and fireworks video montage tiled together by Moore, By the Fire reveals its more erratic side on the near 11-minute crash of “Breath.” The sole Fire track held over from 2017’s Rock N Roll Consciousness, it moves into more anxious waves as Moore enters after the four-minute mark, while “Siren,” is more cinematic in its urgency. The 12-minute track, written on The Adriatic in Vasto, Italy, reveals an homage to mermaids and a link to femininity and transformation.
Inside By the Fire, Moore experiments with the depth of 2019’s three-song, instrumental weight of Spirit Counsel, sparing an hour-plus paean like “Alice Moki Jayne”—an ode to jazz composer Alice Coltrane, Swedish visual artist Moki Cherry, and poet Jayne Cortez—there’s a breather following “Breath” in the more moderate movement of “Calligraphy” before segueing into a tribal cacophony of “Locomotives,” running a near 17 minutes. “Dreamers Work” and “They Believe In Love [When They Look At You]” revert back into some ’90s Sonic motions with Moore’s depth and closes on an instrumental acquiesce of “Venus.”