SONIC DEATH
   
TRACK LIST:

1. Side 1 38:32
--
2. Side 2 29:31
 

NOTES

"Sonic Death" is a vastly underrated audio collage recorded live between 1981 and 1983. It was originally a cassette release compiled by Thurston on his own label, "Ecstatic Peace!". There was no track listing, just "side 1" and "side 2". When SST and Blast First simultaneously reissued "Sonic Death" in 1988 on cassette and CD, no attempt was made to isolate the tracks (a wise decision), the CD just separated side 1 and side 2 onto 2 tracks. I'm not sure whether to classify "Sonic Death" as an album per se, but it's without a doubt an indispensable recording and a perfect snapshot of the first 3 years of Sonic Youth's musical output.

For detailed track information, please view the Side 1 and Side 2 entries in the Song Database. Either click "all" in the right frame and scroll down to "Sonic Death Side 1" and "Sonic Death Side 2", or click these links (these won't open in the proper Song Database frames): Side 1 and Side 2.

PACKAGING

The original cassette cover features an old army photograph of Thurston's brother Gene accompanied by text reading "SONIC-DEATH SONIC-YOUTH LIVE EARLY SONIC". There's an address for Ecstatic Peace Records + Tapes on the side, and a 5-item SY discography, although one versions appears to just have a portion cut off the "Confusion is Sex" cover to patch in the lower righthand corner (with the discography later added for subsequent xeroxes sometime after "Bad Moon Rising" came out? Or is it covering the discography?) The CD reissue had the original cassette cover (pre-xerox) as the cover, and a live photograph on the back (all art has visible scotch tape marks). The label name (SST or Blast First) is listed above Ecstatic Peace!, along with "EARLY SONIC - 1981 - 1983". The CD fold-out is a remarkable 2-sided 8-panel series of photographs (the SST version folds out 8x1 pages, the Blast First version is 4x2). One side is colour, one is black and white. A few years back I posted a detailed analysis of "Sonic Death" to the alt.music.sonic-youth newsgroup, including descriptions of the photographs, which I may as well reproduce here, with minor edits based on new knowledge:

Open the case and there's a picture of Lee strumming the modified zither he plays on "Inhuman", Thurston (playing bass) screaming into the mic, and Kim off in the distance, playing guitar (photo clearly taken during a performance of "Inhuman"). In the corner is a strangely out of place goofy photo of Confusion drummer Jim Sclavunos.

Beginning with the colour side, left-most page. First picture features a pig-tailed, bespectacled Kim playing 6-string guitar. Richard Edson (king of the rototoms) appears to be on drums. Next photo, Thurston clenching his teeth down on a guitar pick, drumstick in hand, clearly obliterating some unseen guitar.

Next is Lee, with his trusty Telecaster, screwdriver behind the 9th fret, no doubt playing "The World Looks Red" or "Confusion is Next". Jim Sclavunos appears to be on drums, and I understand that they only played 2 gigs with him in history. To the right, in a circular image, is Richard Edson behind the drums. Below these photos is Thurston playing a battle-scarred Harmony (phrase stolen from Guitar Player, August 1991), in standard tuning, with Michael Gira playing bass. This is probably taken from an early Swans gig.

To the right, a large pic of the band, though beyond Kim all I can see is unclear blurs. While obviously Lee and Thurston, I can't quite make out what they're doing. Cool shot, though. This is from a gig in Poitier, France in 1983 -- video footage is available on sonicyouth.com.

Four head shots follow. Thurston looks older than he does now. Kim is smoking a cigarette. Lee decides to take his own picture, and Bob Bert brushes up on Manson (research for Bad Moon Rising?). Next, a blurry image, probably taken from a television screen, showing the band circa '83 in a small venue. Lee has Tele in hand. Below, Thurston playing bass with an unknown drummer. A photo of 2 non-Sonics, one of whom appears to be Christian Marclay. The Bert-era band in front of the Eiffel Tower (or some other landmark), Thurston with a crew cut, Lee with Tele.. I'll bet this one is real early. To the right, Lee with his zither. Below, Lee, Thurston, and Kim (playing a strange bass). Thurston dressed for the occasion.

A nice model shot of Mr. Moore with a water bottle, a picture of Kim playing a Musicmaster bass (this shot and the previous circular image of Edson were used in a promo photo for the first EP). And the final shot on the colour page, Bert-era Sonics at an open stage, probably playing Confusion is Next. This appears to be from the same gig as the previous "blurry" shot. Flip...

The scrapbook continues. Far left - Kim holding a guitar, hand gripping the microphone (Shaking Hell?). Thurston running a cowbell up the neck of the legendary, now lost, Drifter for She's in a Bad Mood. Next, Michael Gira playing guitar sitting down. Thurston and Lee (?) on a couch, smoking.

A nice pic of Thurston really getting into one of his hardcore screams, with Lee in his stealth guitar position behind. Two band portraits follow, one with Edson, one with Bert. A few more pictures of band with friends (notice the visual difference in the one where they're all seated in a room compared to previous photos), and then a giant one of Thurston with the Drifter, doing that cowbell thang. Another band shot, the insert picture again, and that's it for this Sonic Scrapbook.

CREDITS/LINERS

ECSTATIC PEACE
RECORDS + TAPES
84 ELDRIDGE ST. #5
N.Y.C. 10002
USA

S.Y. DISCOGRAPHY:
1. SONIC YOUTH 5-Song lp
2. CONFUSION is SEX lp
3. Kill YR. IDOLS 12" EP
4. DEATH VALLEY '69 7" 45
5. BAD MOON RISING lp

SONIC DEATH PIX
by Catherine Bachman-Ceresole, Victor Polson-Tete, Amanda Linn, Roli Mosiman, Lee, Marty Wilkerson, + others unknown.

ADDITIONAL NOTES

I guess it's no secret that this is one of my favorite SY releases. To reiterate what I've said above, if you want to know the contents of "Side 1" and "Side 2", check out the Song Database links above.

RELEASE INFO

CASSETTE

RELEASE DATE
ORIGIN
LABEL
CATALOG #
1984
US
Ecstatic Peace!
E#2
NOTES: initial self-release by thurston on cassette. maybe released 1983?
07/88
US
SST
SST181
NOTES: SST reissue (also released on CD for first time).
07/88
UK
Blast First
BFFP32
NOTES: Blast First reissue (also released on CD for first time).
 
CD

RELEASE DATE
ORIGIN
LABEL
CATALOG #
07/88
US
SST
SST CD 181
NOTES: SST reissue, first release on CD. 2 tracks, side 1 + side 2 of tape.
07/88
UK
BLAST FIRST
BFFP32CD
NOTES: Blast First reissue, first release on CD. 2 tracks, side 1 + side 2 of tape.
 

INFO NEEDED FOR THIS RELEASE

  • Does anybody have concrete information on when this was released? Some sources say 1983, some say 1984...it definitely contains material from October '83 so early '84 seems likely?
  • Please write me w/ anything that's missing!

  • ecstatic peace vers. liner (first?)


    ecstatic peace vers. liner (second?)


    ecstatic peace side 1


    ecstatic peace side 2


    blast first cassette liner


    blast first cassette


    cd insert panels 1 + 2 (cover)


    cd insert panels 3 + 4


    cd insert panels 5 + 6


    cd insert panels 7 + 8


    cd insert panels 9 + 10


    cd insert panels 11 + 12


    cd insert panels 13 + 14


    cd insert panels 15 + 16


    disc


    cd back


    SST cassette cover


    SST cassette side 1


    SST cassette side 2


    SST longbox!