Review: My Bloody Valentine - m b v

There isn't much to be said about pre-m b v-My Bloody Valentine that hasn't already been said, so this intro will be kept short. Unlike a fair few of the world's seminal bands, the Kevin Shields-fronted Dublin quartet - whose trademark trapped in a vacuum wall-of-pop sound is ethereal and noisy simultaneously - are hated by few and loved by many. 1988's Isn't Anything is a flawed but brilliant alternative rock record and its follow up, Loveless is a near-perfect marvel - lascivious, lucid and loud all at the same time. Kevin Shields has been promising its follow up for the better part of 20 years (I feel for the people who were around in 1991 to listen to Loveless). Now that it's finally here, there is much to be said about how Kevin Shields has recaptured the imaginations of Indie fans - 20 years late, certainly, but certainly better 20 years late than never.

The first thing one can't help but notice about m b v is its artwork; its dark blue perceptibility is a sign of things to come. Like Loveless before it, m b v's wall of sound isn't unexpected - opener She Found Now is elegant and ethereal, with Shields' ghostly vocals complimenting the guitar playing. All this is shrouded - veiled, even - in noise, noise and more noise. It's a brilliant start, like Only Shallow and Soft as Snow (But Warm Inside), although perhaps not as good as those two. On the second track, Only Tomorrow, Bilinda Butcher's incredible vocals are introduced alongside a synthetically glitchy guitar sound. It does wonders to work as a break-point, waking the listener up from their Shields-induced trance and it also serves as a precursor for the rest of the album. The track shortly descends into a sprawling show of distortion, serving as the outro.

It's on the fourth track that m b v begins to set itself apart from its predecessors - Is This and Yes may sound like a longer, less interesting and far more repetitive Touched, but it opens up the record allowing for My Bloody Valentine to become more experimental. It wouldn't be inaccurate to compare Is This and Yes to Kid A's Treefingers, instead working the opposite way. If I Am's wobbling guitars and subdued drums compliment Butcher's vocals well, transitioning into New You which is far and away the most poppy song on the record. It would fit well on Isn't Anything, or a record from a different female-fronted Indie band altogether. 

The closing trilogy of songs is where the real experiment begins - and ends. In Another Way begins with a sharp synth, springing into a drum fill and a wall of noises rather than a wall of sound. It's deceptively dreamy, but it works fantastically. It's a huge claim, but it may just well be the best piece of music that My Bloody Valentine have ever created. Its outro especially is a thing of beauty and will probably stand up as one of the finest moments of music in 2013.  

Nothing Is is chaotic - the most noisy piece of music ever created by this band, and that's saying something. Its loud bass drums grow louder by the second - the instruments bounce off each other and become intertwined in a tumult of turbulence. For the duration of it, all that is known is the present, the brilliance of the track and one's own existence. The few seconds of silence between Nothing Is and the closing track Wonder 2 are consequently filled with unnatural sonic ringing. 

And just when you thought My Bloody Valentine were done, they unload this on you; Wonder 2 is like Venetian Snares and My Bloody Valentine met in a face-first collision. The syncopation of the breakbeats combined with My Bloody Valentine's swaying guitar tone form a brilliant closing track which serves as a testament to Kevin Shields and his undying tendency to surprise.

Ultimately, m b v is a triumph. It exonerates Kevin Shields of the 20 years that fans have been waiting, because, from a musical standpoint, it's a worthy successor to Loveless and it will have no trouble standing alongside it and Isn't Anything. Not only is it a brilliant follow-up, it also stakes its claim in the modernization of Indie music, borrowing traits from a whirlpool of electronic artists and putting them together like a jigsaw that only Kevin Sheilds could possibly solve. Here's to another 20 years...


Wednesday, 6 February 2013

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