The Eye of the Storm
Few album covers so accurately reflect the spirit —hell, the sound— of the music therein like the iconic, shocking pink of My Bloody Valentine's legendary 1991 longplayer Loveless. At first it's a pure throb of color, a neon pink splatter that has all the form of abstract expressionism. Yet, adjust your eyes, and you can soon see a shape, and, eventually, the image lurking beneath this lurid pink fog: it's a washed-out, movement-blurred image of a hand incessantly strumming a guitar.
Listening to Loveless impacts a similar impression. At first, its massive washes of sound seem to have nothing anchoring them; no simple feeling of 'playing,' no familiar timbre, no percussive or staccato 'on' to connect the music to our heartbeat. Yet, soon, through the cotton candy clouds of processed sound you can make out the basics of a rock'n'roll band: guitar, drums, voice. They sound, they feel, like traces left behind; the tiny figures standing in the middle of this giant sonic hurricane.
An inventive, methodical, vaguely monomaniacal studio experimenteur, Kevin Shields —the My Bloody Valentine guitar guru who was, by the end of Loveless's three years of studio tinkering, essentially the only one working on it— has called his applications of transformative effects on guitar frequency "the opposite of rock'n'roll." The 'reverse reverb' effect he ran wild with here removes the attack and leaves only the decay; leaving, Shields explains, "just the remnants, the outline."
This singular sound —so admired, so elusive, so otherworldly— has stood Loveless in good stead for over two decades now; the album both embraced as the ultimate shoegaze artefact whilst respected in its own stead.
When You Sleep
Released in 1991 to lavish critical praise, the chorus of acclaim has rarely wavered over two decades; devotion staying true through countless shifts in trend and perception; the record remaining a constant cult classic whilst never becoming too copied, too vogue. Its dense washes of textural guitars build up into something massive; each song a colossal force of tone pushing forward. Yet, Loveless's big secret, its constant draw-card, is the fact that it feels so intimate; the barely-audible, certainly-not-understandable voices of Shields and his femme foil, Bilinda Butcher, sounding like so many whispered secrets.
For all the force and fury of the legendarily-loud liveshows, Loveless is still an intimate experience; a near-breakup record —chronicling Shields and Butcher's disintegrating relationship, which was being battered by the former's obsessive devotion to the record in question— that sounds as if it's ushering you into its own world.
To penetrate the billowing clouds of ghostly effects and discover the band standing there, naked at its core, feels like an act of lucid dreaming; peeling away the opaque haze of the subconscious and seeing things with striking, almost painful clarity. Like some wondrous meditation or particularly potent drug, Loveless offers this aural perception every time.
Record Label: Creation
Release Date: 4 November 1991