Album: When I See The Sun It Always Shines On TV
Label: The End
Over at TLOBF...
Looking at the Nadja discography can induce a sense of vertigo in even the most committed of sludge and drone fans - there is a chasm of stuff out there (that’s without Aidan Baker’s solo material as well). So when an album of esoterically chosen covers turns up, it’s hard not to think, ah well, why not - something else will be along soon, right?
Which is to say I didn’t really hold out much hope for this. The very notion of a band of Nadja’s magma-heavy pedigree covering A-Ha and The Cure - pop songs, ostensibly, however obtuse - seemed a dud move, an empty gesture. But (isn’t there always a but?) there more I’ve lived with it, the more it has made sense; and the song choices more obvious with each successive listen.
So what of the choices? Well, now I look at them there is an obvious pattern, a kind of tectonic underpinning of the whole Nadja sound: MBV, Swans, Codeine (I’m amazed there’s no Godflesh, incidentally - but maybe that would have been an homage to far)… Even The Cure track is obvious on closer listening, as the drum sound is all Nadja in its sparseness, its relentlessness. The Elliot Smith cover is a bit of an anomaly, and yet the mood of the original is relevant here, and the dark romance at the centre of it, similarly with the cover of Slayer’s ‘Dead Skin Mask’ - it’s about an exploration of mood and tone. The A-Ha cover is the real odd one, and in honesty is the track that works least well in the context of the album. Indeed at times it sounds like Jesu on a stoner-rock trip, which isn’t a sentence I ever imagined writing…
What I’m reminded of most here is the Belong EP from last year, Colorloss Record - another covers collection, but one that entirely bent the originals to fit into a particular aesthetic framework. In Belong’s case, they totally scoured out and gutted the originals, leaving a brittle shell or a husk; Nadja have done the opposite so that the originals here are flattened out and inflated, filled with dense swells of sound. A good example is the Swans track ‘No Cure For The Lonely’ - the original’s creaking intimacy has been totally fleshed out, given a billowing grandeur, Gira’s baritone replaced with Baker’s skittering surface whispers. It’s very affecting.
And that pretty much sums up the album - it’s deep, dense and affecting, but in a different way to past Nadja albums. So if Thaumogenesis was a seminal seething epic of mountainous riffs and drones, and last years Desire in Uneasiness a lurching thing of bowel-quaking heaviness then When I See The Sun is comparatively bright in comparison, which is which I guess is partly the point, and an interesting departure for Baker and Leah Buckareff. It works.
Download: Nadja - No Cure For The Lonely