February 8, 2013

Album Review: My Bloody Valentine's m b v

It's been a long and agonizing path since Loveless, and if there was ever a case where practicing patience with Kevin Shield's maddening perfectionism has been no different than entertaining the words of a pathological liar, the last 22 years have been it. The My Bloody Valentine mastermind's frame of reference might as well equate to that of dog years, as he began seriously tempting listeners with the promise of a follow-up to the 1991 shoegaze classic as early as 2007, and that was even before they'd reunited in a live setting. While I never doubted Shields would follow through on the delivery, the number of times vague release dates became after-the-fact realizations of disappointment self-created its own meme. And yet, the more often Shields statements would perk up about LP 3's existence, the easier it became to forgive him, with it being unsurprising to discover the mysterious new album in question would arrive on a Saturday night in the States as My Bloody Valentine's own countrymen slept soundly and clueless. It's difficult to say whether expectations over it would appease the level of myth it had built over the past 22 years even mattered in the end. What's known is that on m b v, Kevin Shield's world and creative genius defies all concepts of truth and time.

My Bloody Valentine's return can be validated as a genuine success, but having just two albums in your back catalog shouldn't make that too difficult to achieve. What m b v faces up against, however, is that one of those album's is the intimidating gold standard of shoegaze and arguably one of the most important records in the history of music, Loveless. There hasn't been any other litmus of material in the genre that's been so pensive to decode or stripped of its parts by its offspring than the quartet's sophomore effort. m b v sounds well aware and respectful of its legacy to the point where you have to entertain the idea that the two decade-plus wait may have justifiably been years (and resources) well spent by Shields holed up in a recording studio, meticulously designing an album deserving to be its follow-up and entirely designated its own identity. The sound he pioneered in the '90s using densely amplified layers of distortion, gliding tremolo and a small space intimacy closed in four walls is physically present on m b v's surface, but emotionally, metamorphosed from its melted frame of LSD audio-visuals and plunged into a longing comedown of tranquility starting with its first three tracks, woozy opening ballad "She Found Now" and the lucent tinnitus clusterings of "Only Tomorrow" and "Who Sees You." m b v's mid-section furthers itself into cognitive clarity, in which the music centralizes on Bilinda Butcher's airy vocal layers , pushing away Shields' warped guitar processes to the same effect ("If I Am," "New You.") The album's peak sensory-inducing overload arrives in its final stretch where Shields promotes his rhythm section as equals to his noisemaking army of high decibel pedals on "In Another Way" and "Nothing Is" before allowing them to consume all other sound on "Wonder 2."

Kevin Shields began working on the album that would become m b v in 1996. Aside from it serving its purpose as the logical next step in My Bloody Valentine's sonic palette, the massive layers of phonic deep-coding he invests into transcend any lapse of time or comparison point past, present and probably future. Judging by listeners' territorial reactions on m b v throughout Twitter and message boards in the moments it broke the Internet to the second everyone hit "play," there is something to be said about the intense personal aspect of hearing a My Bloody Valentine album for the first time. m b v benefits from a thing of both nostalgia and legend, yet its the intimate consumption of each listeners' senses in infinite ways that stands out as their unrivaled strength. What m b v means in two decades from now or could have meant two decades ago is not so much the point as so much as what it meant to you in the moment every treble guitar curved its way through your earbuds, and committed itself to memory.

My Bloody Valentine's m b v is available now on My Bloody Valentine's website.

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