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Reviews

Nadja
When I See The Sun Always Shines On TV James Holloway , May 12th, 2009 10:09

"Nadja are the sound of sheets of rain on a steel gray ocean, the swell rising, flecked with foam under a leaded sky, that boils with passive fury". This sentence has never been attached to a Nadja record before, but it may as well have been. Nadja, for the uninformed, are masters of the long form of ambient/doom/metal/heaviosity/whatever. As the first sentence implies, enough hyperbole and metaphor can be squeezed from a record such as Skin Turns to Glass or Touched to keep a reviewer stuck in a vortex of waffle.

So what to make of this relatively concise Nadja covers album? Superficially, it seems to represent a sum of influences on the Canadian duo: My Bloody Valentine, Slayer, Swans, Codeine. But The Cure, Elliot Smith and Kids In The Hall seem less likely choices, but perhaps not as surprising as a loving interpretation of A-Ha. Surely the result will be a messy version drenched in hipster irony, or an apocalyptic reworking into something resembling primordial ooze?

Fortunately most of the duo's experiments match their hypothesis that tune + reverb x epic noise = profit. And surprisingly the hit / miss ratio is skewed in favour of the wildcard choices.

Album opener My Bloody Valentine's 'Only Shallow' is all wetness and ooze, not ferocious jerky whiteout, but this is not a far remove from the original in tone. Codeine's minimal slacker slowcore 'Pea' is perfectly reinterpreted, Nadja adding layers of washed out fuzzy reverb. Much like the opener, this is a textbook example of paying tribute to your forebears. Swans 'No Cure for the Lonely' is confidentially massive, but perhaps requires a certain familiarity with the original given that Baker's vocals are mumbled and obscure. Slayer's 'Dead Skin Mask' again takes us into the molasses and we are left with an uncanny resemblance to Alice in Chains that nonetheless sounds even more malevolent than the original.

The gleaming surprise, A-Ha's 'The Sun Always Shines On T.V.' evokes rich images of the popstars curled in a ball in the back room of the palace of a Saudi Arabian prince. They perhaps signed a lucrative Faustian pact to be at their employer’s beck and call he ever fancy some peppy 80s pop. Needless to say, the call never came and we were left with this reverb and riffage-heavy bastardisation. Although in feel it’s curiously faithful to the original, the shine is removed from the gleaming pop hooks, and the needless synth overload are blasted to kingdom come. Glorious.

Similarly, 'Needle in the Hay' by Elliot Smith truly soars under Nadja's reworking, the moping of the original transformed into streamlined, almost uplifting noise. The duo then pay homage to the obscure (in the UK sense, the ‘Kids were massive in Nadja's homeland) geek comedy group The Kids in the Hall with 'Long Dark Twenties' with an immense, fugged up cover. 'Faith' by The Cure is the final confirmation of the Nadja formula: Proud and confident, epic and expansive.

When confined to the short form, Nadja seem almost stubborn in their reverent and faithful tribute to their forebears. When I See The Sun Always Shines On TV unveils the secret formula for the creation of crushing melodic noise and makes for a great initiation for those who want to explore Nadja's work in digestible form. And anyway, sometimes having the odd tune thrown among your 60 minute drone exploration makes for a pleasant surprise.

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