Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My Bloody Valentine's "Loveless"and B-Rate Horrors

The primary agenda of Horror Remix is to take stereotypically clichéd B-rate horror movies and edit them down to just the kills and pertinent dialogue, but it also often features music and video mashups. I have discovered several great bands through Horror Remix shows, not the least of which is M83.  A few years ago, I had the privilege of attending a Halloween party that also doubled as a private screening. It was here that I first took notice of My Bloody Valentine when the Best Man commented on the similarities in their sound to Mew, one of many bands that openly cite them as an influence. 

When I finally picked up Loveless a few years later in 2009, however, I just couldn’t get it to click. The vocals seemed too buried and out-of-balance to hold my attention. Still, Loveless held some fascination with me because ever since then, the album has been caught in a loose, elliptical orbit in my player, showing up once every few months.

Recently, I came across a review that reframed the overall statement and subsequent influence of Loveless in my mind. So, on a pleasant afternoon during spring break, the Little One and I went for a walk on a trail behind our apartment and I decided to again try to give it a focused listen, this time on headphones

Considering the context for Loveless is imperative. It came out in 1991 when I was a freshman at UNT. In the summer of that year, I had a job at the Hasting’s in Barton Creek mall. Nirvana would not break for a few more years, but there was a feeling that the sound of the 90s was yet to be defined.  During this gig, I was opening my ears to Public Enemy’s complex sampling approach and the possibility that Nine Inch Nails was more than just a dance band.  Generally, though, I was still predisposed to the technical and conceptual prowess of progressive rock.  I was certainly not in a place where I could decode My Bloody Valentine's innovations.

In retrospect, there wasn't anything else that sounded like Loveless.  It represents an entirely different concept of balance than I would have accepted back then.  Despite the overall “loudness” of the album, the voice’s placement in its opaque wall of sound is actually quite fragile. The vocals are immediately perceptible, but the details of timbre paradoxically blend in with, and are swallowed up by, the surrounding environment. Like a fish swimming under the icy surface of a frozen lake, they are intentionally submerged in a unique, delicate world just below the surface.

Headset listening is often a disorienting experience. Wearing Loveless as a halo of distortion as I walked a trail devoid of human presence jarringly inverted the ratio of sound to silence. The album’s impenetrable guitar sheen gave me the sensation that I was beset from all sides. As the trees choked out the sky, I began to feel a slightly paranoid (and protective of the Little One) about whatever clichéd B-rate horror movie monster might be lurking in the bushes.

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