SINCE emerging from New York City's cacophonous "No Wave" scene in 1981, Sonic Youth has become one of the most innovative and compelling guitar bands in America. On the newly released album "Evol," the band's densely textured dual guitar attack creates dramatic and foreboding soundscapes that are at once hypnotic and cathartic.
Guitarist Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo not only command a typical array of industrial guitar sounds, but also, through odd tunings and hammering techniques, unleash a barrage of more unearthly sounds.
Fortunately, Sonic Youth exhibits artful control over its guitars and songs. In "Shadow of the Doubt," a koto-like guitar phrase sweetens Kim Gordon's breathy tale of a romantic encounter on a train. As Gordon's tale builds an air of eroticism and danger, however, the guitars slowly boil over into a clanging tidal wave before gently subsiding at song's end.
Many of the band's most horrific scenarios are shaped around slow, despondent rhythms and dry, detached recitations. "In the Kingdom 19," Thurston Moore's impersonal description of violence on the nation's highways is viciously underscored by a roaring and screeching tangle of guitars that chaotically bang against each other like automobiles out of control.
Like Jimi Hendrix or the Velvet Underground, Sonic Youth successfully explores the electric guitar as a noise-making weapon capable of overpowering and transporting the listener to worlds of dark and frightening intensity.
SONIC YOUTH -- "Evol" (SST-059); appearing Friday night with Gone and G.I. at the Complex (1239 Ninth Street NW).