Japancakes - Loveless
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To some, the very idea of a song-by-song cover album of Loveless by a single group is probably sacrilege. Since it was released just over fifteen years ago, the album by My Bloody Valentine has been pushed near the top of the indie-rock pantheon, with buckets upon buckets of praise showered upon Kevin Shields for his unique vision. Personally, I happen to both love the album and at the same time find good amounts of the praise a bit overblown while also admitting that it's one of the defining records of its era. Like it or not, though, it's a release that everyone has heard and usually has a strong opinion on, which makes it a potentially tricky album to cover.

One thing that can be said about Loveless is that it manages to sound fairly unique even today, and instead of trying to match its intensity and searing sounds, Japancakes has instead taken things the complete opposite direction. It's a wise move that's also a bit disarming. Pedal steel and cello take the places of vocal and lead melodies respectively, with the real kicker being that the group uses no distortion on the release (which is easily one of the defining elements of the original).

Needless to say, it's a completely different experience. "Only Shallow" kicks things off with the familiar crack of drums, but it's immediately different, as curling pedal steel provides the familiar lead melody before piano and cello come in for the main section of the song. "Loomer" is similar, with slightly more pounding drums buoyed by the familiar pedal steel and cello, while a slew of layered synths piles in and propels the song forward. Without the distortion, the melodies of the songs really pop to the foreground, and the group does a great job in terms of keeping a level of complexity in the songs, even though on first listen things feel almost naked.

Basically, the hugely loud songs of the original release become much more mellow, and the slightly more mellow songs of the original turn into something else entirely. Tracks like "I Only Said" and "Soon" sound like what you might hear playing in a space-age country-western saloon drifting somewhere in another galaxy, while stripped-down pieces like "Touched" and "When You Sleep" stun with a near chamber-music quality. As mentioned above, it really requires a different mindset than the original album, and honestly it's not quite as taxing of one. Loveless isn't so mellow that it turns into complete wallpaper music, but instead the loving recreation makes a nice come-down listen as the group has found a way to morph original elements into new (and sometimes unexpected) sounds that make you forget what you're even listening to in places. It's a completely different trip, but it's definitely worth a listen for how much different of a road it takes. Instead of setting synapses on fire with sand-blasted sonics, this one is a delicate comedown of weak-kneed woozy proportions.

rating: 7.2510
Aaron Coleman 2007-11-08 19:39:10