Joining us in the studio for this Indie Rock Hit Parade live session is a pair of expert experimenters whose collaboration defies categorization. Lee Ranaldo first worked with Raül Refree on his 2017 solo album, Electric Trim. The former Sonic Youth guitarist and the adventurous producer/multi-instrumentalist hit it off and the pair released a full-length collaboration, Names of North End Women, earlier this year. While rehearsing for their (now-postponed) European tour, Ranaldo and Refree brought all manner of noisemakers to our studio for a one-of-a-kind session.

For all the sessions I’ve recorded for this show over the last six or seven years, I’ve never witnessed anything quite like Ranaldo and Refree’s performance. Some of the sounds you’ll probably recognize, like the bowed acoustic guitar on opener “Alice, Etc.” While the album (intentionally) features only fleeting glimpses of Ranaldo’s signature instrument, in this session we’re treated to several moments where his and Refree’s unusual approaches are in the spotlight. Chiming bells and singing bowls punctuate “Words Out of the Haze,” which also heavily features a custom-built, percussive string instrument called a railtrack kalimba. Developed by instrument inventor (and frequent Ranaldo collaborator) Yuri Landman, the sparse apparatus creates an otherworldly ringing when struck with mallets. Finally, there’s “Light Years Out.” For this piece, Ranaldo shows off his collection of found-sound cassettes, played forward and backward on a vintage tape machine sourced from the Library of Congress for use with early audiobooks. With evocative spoken-word and harrowing soundscapes, Ranaldo and Refree bring their session to a thrilling conclusion.

Watch Lee Ranaldo + Raül Refree’s full Indie Rock Hit Parade performance via NPR Live Sessions below. Stream the session audio and check out some photos from the studio, too…

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