Having formed just last year, Austin trio, Pale Dian‘s supreme take on shoegaze has their sound rooted in the influences of Cocteau Twins, Lush and My Bloody Valentine. Their first single, “In A Day,” (released earlier this year) stacked layers on layers of swirling, fuzzed out guitars, architecting the perfect wall of sound. With their new track, “Pas De Deux,” the band strips down the pedals, brings forth their synth and creates an echoing atmosphere for lead singer Ruth Ellen Smith to vamp her vocals that are one part Liz Frazier and one part Asobi Seksu’s Yuki Chikudate.
“This song was my experiment with dub,” Ruth said. “The recording was all an idea that I had from a demo that just needed to be fine tuned with studio love. With the help of our amazing producer Alex Bhore (This Will Destroy You), we hashed it out. The recording has guitar only at the end, so we learned to play the song live later. [The live version] comes across much darker, which I’m pleased with. I often write [songs] that are dissonant but somehow work out in a way that make your ears have to think. This is that song.”
Listen, below, to the BlackBook exclusive premiere of “Pas De Deux:”
It could be considered insane—not to mention sacrilegious—to take on even one song from My Bloody Valentine’s landmark shoegaze album Loveless: there’s too much going on, too little solid ground to walk around on. But not only has Kenny Feinstein, frontman for bluegrass-punk band Water Tower, adapted the masterpiece in full for his debut solo outing, he did it with acoustic guitar, mandolin, dobro, fiddle, and dulcimer.
Feinstein described his inspiration: "I forced myself to listen to Loveless over and over because I did not understand it I was confused by the sounds coming from it. Finally, when listening to ‘Loomer’ while driving around a mall in Fort Lauderdale I had an epiphany during the chorus. I could not tell if the sound was being made by a human, a synth, a guitar, a bass or anything, but I did not care, all I could gather was that it was the most blissful sound I had ever heard."
The de-electrified versions of MBV’s classics have an unusually striking quality—here, the instrumentation is all beautifully distinct, and for once Kevin Shield’s lyrics, more deftly poetic than most listeners realize, are allowed to shine out of the mix. In acoustic, sometimes skeletal form, tracks like “I Only Said” and “Soon” feel like something aliens could be strumming on their back porches.
Below, check out the music video for “What You Want,” featuring songwriter Richard Buckner (who has also covered the Joy Division classic “Love Will Tear Us Apart” to similar transfixing effect).
This is the most ridiculous, unexpected, weekend-improving news you could possibly ask for: a few weeks after Kim Deal quit the Pixies—er, again—the band in the dead of night sent out a link to their first new song since 2004’s “Bam Thwock” and the second new bit of music since 1993’s terribly underrated Trompe le Monde. This thing is called “Bagboy,” and it is … titanic.
My god, I am really just too excited to say much more, but I will do my damndest. The site offering the track as a free download puts it cryptically: “Cover your breath … polish your teeth … BAGBOY.” Kim Deal does her usual fantastic backing vocals for a simply massive chorus while Frank Black talk-sings the chugging verses. This is so what you want to hear right now.
Apparently the song was recorded as long as last year ago, in Wales, but luckily we didn’t have to experience that excruciating wait, just: surprise, new awesome song. Now all we need is for the Pixies to tour with My Bloody Valentine for an ear-bleeding noisefest. “Bagboy” comes with a delightful video as well, so get your fix both ways.
The Internet, we can safely say, has wildly changed the way we are introduced to new music—and that seems to have inspired further innovations. While streaming a forthcoming album in full on NPR or Pitchfork is now old hat, it seems Boards of Canada would rather all their fans tune in at once and hear their feverishly anticipated Tomorrow’s Harvest today, at 4pm Eastern Standard Time.
All you have to do is mosey over to boardsofcanada.com at or before the appointed time; the rest should be self-evident. And with interest so high, it wouldn’t surprise us if the website crashed, à la Kevin Shields’ site when the new My Bloody Valentine went live—though Netflix was able to premiere Arrested Developmentwithout major incident, so who knows!
Anyway, upward of 11,000 people have already RSVPd to the event on Facebook, and that’s just among people who RSVP to stuff like this on Facebook. It should be an oddly communal experience, keeping with the subtle hints about the album dropped around the globe that fans had to collaborate to decipher. It didn’t take very long for William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition to come true, now did it.
Everyone is coming out of the woodwork this year: Godspeed You Black Emperor, The Knife, and My Bloody Valentine have all reemerged in almost totally unanticipated ways after long hiatuses, and each has delivered a huge, haunting record that reaffirmed what we loved about the band. Now, in an era where “BoC” more likely means Blue Oyster Cult, Scottish electronica duo Boards of Canada are teasing a new release with wildly complicated clues, whipping fans into a frenzied scavenger hunt.
But let us save you the viral-underground PR theatrics: after all, the nerds are on the case. It begins with the appearance of some 12” vinyl singles that surfaced on Record Store Day, which contained odd snippets of what had to be new material. (One of those first clues is now selling on eBay for an asking price of $565.00, so get bidding.) Then there was an Adult Swim bumper spot and a strange, password-protected website that a fan cracked, leading us to this spooky but alluring video.
Now it’s official: the new album, Tomorrow’s Harvest, is out on June 11 from Warp Records. Will anyone be able to resist, given that so much buzz has built up around it already? Will you need a World War II-era decryption device to even listen to the damn thing? Will the new Daft Punk album this year be delivered via hot air balloon? For the moment, nothing seems impossible.
Oh, and here’s the tracklist, in case there’s some kind of a clue in there, too:
This week saw the release of quite possibly the year’s best shoegaze album. Okay, yes, just a few months ago My Bloody Valentine reemerged after a twenty-year wait with mbv, an almost unfathomable leap into impossibilities of sound, but that can have its own special category. Because Montreal group No Joy’s second album, Wait To Pleasure, is too good not to hyperbolize.
The problem with so much music of this stripe, as any mildly obsessed fan can tell you, is that the trademarks—heavenly reverb, massive guitars, blurry androgynous vocals and deep-space drums—are often used to mask a shortage of songwriting chops. Not a problem for No Joy, which wouldn’t be caught dead without a stellar composition underneath them. Take, for example, “Prodigy,” a ode that has some of A Sunny Day In Glasgow’s airy breeze, but plenty of heavy artillery too.
Elsewhere, other genres are straddled: “Blue Neck Riveria” has some of the hard edges of trip-hop perfect for a late-night drive, and “Wrack Attack” is something of a girl-group, garage-pop nugget. They’re most themselves, however, on the official single, the endlessly surprising “Lunar Phobia,” which unfolds like a sunburst of everything you liked about the 90s. If that’s a decade you remember.
If you’re reading this then you already know: the Super Bowl was canceled due to the unlikely and monumental release late Saturday evening of My Bloody Valentine’s third album, mbv, hotly anticipated for upwards of two decades. The warm pink swooning sonic assault of otherworldly guitar proved too dangerous even for the NFL’s best to play in, and advertisers pulled their support for the event, knowing full well that everyone’s attention had been captured by this rock milestone. According to TMZ, Beyoncé could be heard blasting “Only Tomorrow” from her penthouse yesterday afternoon.
We told you recently to give up all hope of something like mbv ever finding its way to the generations of shoegaze diehards (as well as 95% of Japan) who have been dreaming about it lo these many years. We could not be happier to be so wrong, especially seeing as how this truly magnificent artistic achievement has, for the time being, completely overshadowed any otherwise popular contest of strength and agility—and perhaps even the notion of athletics itself. For what, in the jet-launch roar of album closer “Wonder 2,” could pretend to be as important?
The Super Bowl will be back next February. In the meantime, take a trip down into the poppy swirl of “New You” and feel the contentment of not having to eat eight pounds of chili and nachos in one sitting. Or, what the hell, do that anyway. It’s not every day that musicians expose the utter futility of doing anything except making the best, loudest and coolest music on the face of the planet. In fact, grab some beers, invite some friends over to party and listen to this together. Start a betting pool on who’ll go deaf first.
We discussed late in 2012 the eternal defeat of being a My Bloody Valentine fan: mastermind Kevin Shields is great at getting our hopes for new material up and then spiking them like mason jars on asphalt. So here’s your consolation prize: a bunch of noisy Japanese bands covering Loveless, start to finish.
You can get the entire tribute album—no, I’ve no idea why it’s called that, except that perhaps they designed the cover first?—on Japanese iTunes, which I know we all have, or Amazon, but luckily a lot of these tracks have been showing up on YouTube. For example, you’ve got Boris’ take on “Sometimes,” which will be enough to sell most noiseheads on the project.
Elsewhere, there’s the hilariously lounge-fried “When You Sleep” from Shonen Knife, a cover of “Touched” by The Sodom Project that sounds like that one Nine Inch Nails song from Natural Born Killers (so help me I will not look it up). Best of all, though, may be Lemon’s Chair’s version of “What You Want,” which accesses the danciness of album closer “Soon” for dream-pop of the highest order. To the clouds!
Again. We last got unduly stoked for new material from MBV at the end of 2007, when the band was preparing for their 2008 reunion tour and dropping hints of a Loveless follow-up that was about “3/4 finished” but would be out “before year’s end.” Leaving aside the laughable notion that weirdo perfectionist shoegaze godfather Kevin Shields would polish off the last 25% of his album in less than a month, IT HURT A LOT THAT HE DIDN’T.
Then, this past November, we heard a similar promise from the NME (shudder): the album would “be released on frontman Kevin Shields’s website before the end of the year … followed by a further EP of brand new material.” It’s a Christmas miracle! Except we’ve heard nothing else over the ensuing weeks, the year is nearly over, and Shields doesn’t even have a website. Guess we’re giving up again.
Boy, I tell you: I am really looking forward to the next time I briefly hold out hope for a new My Bloody Valentine album. It’s like they know exactly how to space out my disappointments so that I never learn the lesson. In the end, even if this has been a two-decade hoax and Shields never recorded a single note, I appreciate that he’s been throwing me this bone now and then, just to get me through another five years.