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Lee Ranaldo at Melbourne Festival

Posted by Jenn Winterbine

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For Sonic Youth fans, Lee Ranaldo is a much-loved name. As a founding member of the band, as well as a solo artist and writer, Ranaldo has brought a trademark lyricism to all his creative pursuits. In 1981, Ranaldo formed Sonic Youth with band mates Thurston Moore, Kim Gordon, and Steve Shelley. Together they would develop into a group that would define a generation, oozing a sense of effortless kool that made every teenager in the world slap on a pair of wayfarers and replace a standard plectrum with a screwdriver.

It was Ranaldo’s endearing persona and softly-spoken vocal style that made him a favorite for thousands of Youth fans across the globe. He flooded their dusty old record players with a distinct lyricism, half-whispering honeylike prose that was so Beatnik, it radiated a Ginsberg-like reverence. Epic crescendos inspired by Sylvia Plath, anti-war marches, and Andy Warhol’s Chelsea Girls, all dripping in Ranaldo’s trademark romanticism, defined him as an enchanting dreamer who wears his heart on his sleeve.

Lee’s knack for seducing the listener with his experimental guitar style and earnest social commentary has carried through to his solo endeavors.  In 1987, Ranaldo’s first solo album From Here to Infinity unleashed screeching landscapes of abrasive noise. The apocalyptic noise that came to define Ranaldo as a solo artist emerged again in his later releases including the 1999 album Dirty Windows: a series of spoken-word pieces about American dystopianism all delivered in a wall of frantic feedback.

Ranaldo’s latest effort, Between the Times and the Tides, follows the tone of later Sonic Youth releases such as Murray Street and Sonic Nurse. The dizzy waves of noise that defined his early releases are stripped back and replaced by a super-slick “rock n roll” sound. And it’s bloody good rock n roll. Catchy tunes about lost love, bustling city life and the Occupy Wall Street movement show that despite Sonic Youth’s hiatus, Ranaldo still has plenty to say.

This month, the God of Noise himself will be in Melbourne for several shows. After making an in-store appearance for competition winners at St Kilda record store Pure Pop (7pm Mon 22 Oct), his band Text of Light will play a special show at ACMI (7:30pm Tue 23 Oct) as part of the Melbourne Festival. Homage will be paid to avant-garde auteur Stanley Brakhage while the band thrash out layers improvised feedback in sync with Brakhage’s hypnotic films.

Finally on Wed 24 Oct, Ranaldo will appear at The Hi-Fi – again as part of Melbourne Festival – for a more traditional rock show, showcasing tracks from the latest album. Don’t miss a chance to see this sonic icon in the flesh: buy a copy of his new CD from Pure Pop for an entry to the intimate show, or visit the Melbourne Festival website for tickets to the other shows.

For information on how to win a ticket to Pure Pop’s Q&A Session with Lee Ranaldo and Tim Rogers visit purepop.com.au.

For tickets to the Text of Light and Lee Ranaldo shows as part of the Melbourne Festival visit moshtix.com.au/event.

For more information about Melbourne Festival, including Thurston Moore’s performance on Thurs 25 Oct, visit melbournefestival.com.au.


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