Music

Nadja: When I See the Sun Always Shines on TV

It's normally a horribly overdone gimmick, but the Toronto duo manages to put their own unique twist on the covers album.


Nadja

When I See the Sun Always Shines on TV

Label: The End
UK Release Date: 2009-05-11
US Release Date: 2009-04-28
Amazon
Amazon
iTunes

If you want to be a Nadja completist, you'll not only have to have a deep appreciation for the kind of ambient drone/shoegaze music that makes vinyl geeks drool uncontrollably, but also a willingness to go through the effort (not to mention the cash) to keep up with the Toronto duo's extremely prolific work ethic. Guitarist Aidan Baker and bassist Leah Buckareff might have been putting out music since only 2003, but over the last six years they've amassed a discography as staggering as that of a veteran artist who's been around for four decades. In fact, so crazed has their recording output become that 2008 yielded more than 20 different releases, ranging from full-length albums, seven-inch singles, EPs, remixes, and split CDs. With such incredible productivity, though, comes the notion among some listeners that Nadja's willingness to release seemingly everything they record lessens the impact of the band's better efforts. And indeed, it can be a trying experience to go through the effort of separating the wheat from the chaff, especially for those new to Nadja's oeuvre.

Dig deep into the catalog, though, and you'll unearth some beauts. For instance, the 2007 full-length Touched was a revelation, the re-recordings of early CDRs Skin Turns to Glass and Bliss Torn from Emptiness were as sublime as they were riddled with gloom, while the 2008 album Desire in Uneasiness turned out to be arguably Nadja's finest, most consistent effort, Baker and Buckareff employing the services of a live drummer for the first time, briefly eschewing the drum machine they often prefer to use. However, for those still a little wary of the band's slow-burning, often meandering collisions of distortion, discordance, and melody, the best place to ease themselves into the dreamy, foggy world of Nadja might actually be their new collection of covers, which turns out to be a lot better than one would expect.

Covers albums are always dicey, unpredictable affairs, and a very overdone gimmick in the metal world, but what makes Nadja's When I See the Sun Always Shines on TV work so well is that the eight tracks they choose to cover force Baker and Buckareff to actually focus. Working within the constraints of a pop song, as opposed to the almost free-form style they normally employ, works wonders at times on this record, and the new collection's high points turn out to be some of their best, most powerful work to date.

One band Nadja has continually tried to evoke on its recordings is the legendary underground band Swans, and their rendition of "No Cure for the Lonely", from 1992's Love of Life, transforms Michael Gira's darkly pretty acoustic ballad into a gorgeous slowcore dirge, Baker and Buckareff taking Gira's wistful acoustic guitar riff, slowing it down considerably, and adding heaps of melodrama. In direct contrast is the cover of Slayer's 1990 classic "Dead Skin Mask", which is expanded into a ten-minute doom metal epic, the morass of guitar and bass sounding like it came from the damaged acetate that contained Black Sabbath's sludgy minor masterpiece Born Again. Baker's hypnotic, detached vocal delivery effectively conveys the demented inner dialogue of serial killer Ed Gein. The title track from the Cure's landmark 1981 album Faith is a perfect fit for the Nadja treatment, but the real keeper on this album is the stunning cover of a-ha's '80s pop gem "The Sun Always Shines on TV", the synths of the original replaced by massive, crunching riffs, with the tender melody of the chorus achieving an aching majesty when juxtaposed with those layers of guitars.

If this album has a fault, it's that the rather straightforward cover of My Bloody Valentine's "Only Shallow" is too predictable. Everyone knows that there would be no Nadja without the towering work of the great Kevin Shields, and not only is the choice of song an obvious one, but Baker and Buckareff don't exactly bring anything new to the table, instead doing a safe run-through of the track. Aside from that, though, this is an immensely satisfying little collection, as good a gateway drug into Nadja's vast sonic world as you'll find. Just be prepared to keep up once those new releases start churning out once again.

7

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less
Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

Next Page
Related Articles Around the Web

Melkbelly splices insanely supercharged punk energy with noise-band drums and super catchy pop melodies. It's a bewildering, intoxicating sound which has caught the attention of underground Chicago audiences. We ask singer Miranda Winters how it works.

"I've always, I guess, struggled to decide what kind of music I wanted to play, something sort of abrasive and loud or something sort of pop and folky. I would bounce back and forth between the two," says Miranda Winters, the dynamic singer who careens between pretty girl pop croons and banshee wails in the course of, really, almost any song in the Melkbelly catalog. "When we first started Melkbelly, the goal was to figure out how to make them work together, but I don't know that we actually knew that it would work when we started."

Keep reading... Show less

Talay's new tune will win points with those not shy of expressing their holiday joy with four-letter cusses.

Most Decembers, I don't get super excited by the prospect of sitting down and preparing a bunch of holiday cards for mailing. And I certainly do my best to avoid venturing anywhere in the vicinity of SantaCon, the bar crawl for a North Pole-themed mob. But for those who like their eggnog with a little extra something, the new tune from Talay may become your new rallying cry.

Keep reading... Show less
Music

Fever Ray: Plunge

Photo courtesy of Rabid Records

Returning eight years after her solo debut as Fever Ray, Karin Dreijer extends the sonic identity of her project, thriving in the chaos and disorientation that her electric visions produce.

The solo project of Karin Dreijer (one half of the excellent electronic duo the Knife) could not arrive at a better time. With the Knife no longer active, and eight years having pass since her debut record under the Fever Ray moniker, Dreijer revisits many of the stylistic intricacies inherent in the Knife's DNA, while further evolving her take on Fever Ray.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image