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Nadja: When I See the Sun Always Shines on TV (2009) June 13, 2009

Posted by sjroby in Canadian content, Music.
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Nadja: When I See the Sun Always Shines on TV

Nadja: When I See the Sun Always Shines on TV

What first caught my attention about Nadja was their name. It’s my youngest sister’s name, and it doesn’t tend to pop up very often. So when their album Truth Becomes Death appeared on eMusic a few years ago, I downloaded it for the hell of it. At first, I was mainly amused by the sheer bloodymindedness of the album: three tracks in 50 minutes, layers of drones and harsh guitar noise moving very slowly, sometimes sounding like a stretched heavy metal tape played way too slowly, sometimes like isolationist ambient, even sometimes — when most of the noise fades away late on the album — like slowcore. I got a few more Nadja albums, but the first one I really listened to a lot was Radiance of Shadows (three songs, 79 minutes). Despite being a lot longer, it seemed somehow more focused, and the textures stronger, the louder moments more forceful, the quiter moments not seeming like they were just there for the sake of contrast. Still a long way from mainstream accessibility, of course.

Nadja’s new album is still a fair distance from mainstream accessibility, but it’s as close as they’ve come yet. It’s a covers album, applying the Nadja sound to eight songs by other artists, ranging from shoegazers My Bloody Valentine to metal band Slayer, from singer songwriter Elliott Smith to 80s pop band A-Ha. At least one review has criticized the album on the grounds that these widely diverse songs all end up sounding roughly the same, and there’s some truth to that. It’s not easy to hear traces of the originals in many of these songs (My Bloody Valentine’s “Only Shallow” is the closest to the original). But it really tightens Nadja’s focus, with more of the songs having regular beats and reasonably clear though somewhat subdued vocals. There are still some long songs — the cover of Slayer’s “Dead Skin Mask” is ten minutes long, the Cure’s “Faith” nearly thirteen — but by Nadja’s standards, that’s short.

The squall of noise approach in Nadja’s sound has led people to categorize them as ambient doom, shoegazer metal, and other seemingly oxymoronic names. Justin Broadrick’s Jesu has also been tagged shoegazer metal, and for the first time there’s a bit of an audible similarity between Nadja and Jesu here. Jesu’s sound has become more clean and concise, refining the shoegazer, metal, and 80s gloom (e.g., Joy Division) sound, and Nadja is in a similar place here. I doubt they’ll stay here long, much less move any closer to the mainstream, but this is nonetheless a good, enjoyable album and the easiest approach into the sound of Nadja.

Oh, in case you were wondering, my sister Nadja doesn’t like what she’s heard of Nadja’s music. Alas.

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