m b v
When one sits down to think about, and more importantly, listen to the first new My Bloody Valentine album in 22 years, the weight of history, of anticipation, of context threatens to overwhelm. Are you actually listening to the record or an approximation of what a record that took the entire span of this writer’s life to appear would sound like? Are you listening to a new My Bloody Valentine album or a simulacra of one? Can anything be worth this wait? Is it enough if this just sounds like an MBV record? What did Kevin Shields spend all that time doing? Why the seemingly-sudden release?
Well, it sounds like a My Bloody Valentine album, that’s for sure: vocals weave in and out of the mix, submerged under Turner style washes of guitar gauze, melodies bob up and down, the whole thing shimmers.
The good news is that from the second she found now hovers into view – its drumless landscape stretching off into aural Fata Morganas on the horizon, guitars, both real and imagined, wavering in the distance – the aforementioned questions don’t seem to matter. The sensation of surrendering yourself to the album’s myriad joys takes control. That you know, largely, what to expect from m b v doesn’t hinder any enjoyment you may derive from it. Rather, the listener versed with the group’s sound is able to pick up on the divergences. There’s the pummelling nothing is, a Colm Ó Cíosóig-driven stomper that sounds more like Lightning Bolt or Mick Barr’s hypnotic avant-metal group Orthrelm than you ever thought MBV were capable of; there’s the oddly-bouncy new you with its soft, cushioning chords and faltering tremolo lines buoyed up by a pleasingly solid, uptight bassline; there’s the droning, ambient salve of is this and yes. m b v ends with another of those divergences: wonder 2 is structured around the (presumably) simulated sound of a jet taking off; this jet is joined by banks of swirling Skullflower-circa-Exquisite Fucking Boredom style guitar skronk and skree, Shields’ cooing vocals … then it rises and falls, falls and rises, and then…m b v is over.
The more you listen to m b v, the looser your grip on criticality becomes: the weight of history you earlier sought to shrug off vanishes, replaced by a fawning adoration. Each new swooping, gliding Bilinda Butcher vocal line sends you into raptures, each disorientating Kevin Shields guitar overdub paradoxically re-orientates you, every one of Colm’s fills hits a different pleasure point, Debbie Googe’s basslines alternating between hefty wallops and barely-there structural support providing a pleasing sense of grounding. You try to be distanced, to hold off from snap judgements, to step back and reassess how good this record is when those thoughts about history, and temporality, and context creep back in your head … but it’s impossible. The record is too good.
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Words: Josh Baines