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Sonic Youth Ready SYR 6, Tour the World

Catherine Lewis and Eric Marth report:
Sonic Youth are nearing completion of the sixth installment of SYR, the series they initiated back in 1997 as an outlet for their most challenging experimental pieces, improvisational works, and collaborations with like-minded artists. In keeping with previous editions-- on which they've been joined by the likes of Ikue Mori, DJ Olive, Wharton Tiers, Christian Marclay, William Winant, Christian Wolff, now-official-member Jim O'Rourke and even Thurston/Kim collaboration Coco Hayley Gordon Moore-- the new disc will prominently feature French singer Brigitte Fontaine and her longtime singing/songwriting collaborator Areski. Fontaine is presumably returning the favor-- Sonic Youth guested on her recent Kekeland album.

Originally scheduled to see release in April of last year, but pushed back for reasons unknown, SYR 6 is now rumored to have been expanded to a DVD/CD collection, and will likely include a behind-the-scenes documentary (or something like it) detailing its creation-- as well as tracks excluded from Fontaine's Kekeland and concert footage from a performance in the Pompideau Center in Paris. No specific release date has been etched in stone, but the band is definitely shooting for sometime next month.

In related news, Sonic Youth are performing on April 12th at New York City's Anthology Film Archives as a memorial tribute to one of America's greatest filmmakers, Stan Brakhage, who passed away on March 9th in Victoria, British Columbia. The concert will be a benefit to assist Brakhage's medical expenses and will be a predominantly instrumental "chamber concert" with an assortment of Brakhage films screened during the performance.

This will be the first in a series of shows this spring and summer, including a previously reported appearance at Los Angeles' Coachella Festival, with Interpol, The White Stripes, and The Stooges. The group will be playing trough June (including a number of unconfirmed dates), ending the stint with a date with Wilco in late June at Central Park. Dates:

04-12 New York NY - Anthology Film Archives (Stan Brakhage Memorial concert)
04-27 Indio CA - Coachella Festival
04-24 Barcelona, Spain - Primavera Festival
05-25 Lisbon, Portugal - Colisseum
06-12 Asheville NC - Orange Peel
06-13 Manchester TN - Bonnaroo Festival
06-15 Pittsburgh PA - Three Rivers Arts Festival
06-17 St. Louis MO - The Pageant
06-26 New York NY - Rumsey Playfield Central Park (with Wilco)

As we previously reported, a remastered and widely expanded edition of the band's 1992 release Dirty will hit stores on April 8th. The collection will feature b-sides and demos, encompass two discs as a Geffen Records release, or four vinyl LPs as a Smells Like Records box set. The band is planning similar expansions of Goo and Daydream Nation in the very near future. There are also plans to reissue three of Sonic Youth's VHS releases on DVD. 1991's The Goo That Lives on in My Heart, 1992's 1991: The Year Punk Broke and 1995's Screaming Fields of Sonic Love will all be issued with extra material, though no dates are currently available to reveal when those might be made available.

What else have we got? Well, SY guitarist Lee Ranaldo's Text of Light ensemble will be heading to Europe for a few selected dates. The group took its name from Brakhage's 1974 silent film of the same name, to which they have performed improvised soundtracks over the past year. For the first set of these European performances, the group will include Ranaldo, Alan Licht, Ulrich Kreiger, DJ Olive, and William Hooker, and the final June date will feature drummer Tim Barnes filling in for Hooker:

03-28 Bologna, Italy - Link
03-29 Venice, Italy - Mestre/Rizonanze Festival
03-31 Parice, Fance - Pompidou Center
04-01 Berlin, Germany - Bodewil
06-01 Nancy Vandoeuvre, France - France Musique Action Festival

Since we've mentioned Stan Brakhage twice in this article, it's fitting that we take a moment to pay a small tribute to such a legendary filmmaker, whose work has touched musicians and influenced mainstream moviemakers such as David Lynch and Martin Scorsese. Brakhage was a member of a huge group of underground/DIY filmmakers in the 50s and 60s, which included Kenneth Anger, Andy Warhol, and Michael Snow. In the past fifty years, he made nearly 400 films, ranging in length from nine seconds to four hours, whose subjects included childbirth, lovemaking, and even autopsy. Some films, such as 1963's Mothlight, were made without using a camera at all, by placing images directly on the film itself, either painting, drawing, or scratching by hand, treating the film as a miniature canvas. (Luckily for all of us, Criterion has promised us a collection of 26 Brakhage films on DVD sometime soon.)

Throughout his career, Brakhage explored the nature of vision and image-perception. In Metaphor on Vision (1963), he wrote: "Imagine an eye unruled by man-made laws of perspective... an eye unprejudiced by compositional logic, an eye which does not respond to the name of everything but which must know each object encountered in life through an adventure of perception."

Over the past few months, Brakhage had been working on a film that he had talked about making for years, called The Chinese Series, scratching with his fingernails directly onto 35mm black leader. At the time of his death, he had finished several feet of footage. He said it should end wherever he stopped. Brakhage is reported to have said to his wife Marilyn, on the day before his death, "I've had a wonderful life. Life is great." We here at the 'Fork couldn't agree with him more.

.: Pitchfork Review: Sonic Youth: Murray Street
.: Sonic Youth:
.: Anthology Film Archives:
.: Smells Like Records:
.: Stan Brakhage:,+Stan
.: Criterion Collection:
.: Originally published: 26 March 2003
.: Items mentioned above on SYR 1: Anagrama (Sonic Youth, 1997); SYR 2: Slaapkamers Met Slagroom (Sonic Youth, 1997); SYR 3: Invito Al Cielo (Sonic Youth, 1997); SYR 4: Goodbye 20th Century (Sonic Youth, 1999); SYR 5 (DJ Olive, Kim Gordon, Ikue Mori, 2000); By Brakage Anthology (Criterion Collection DVD, 2003).