Music as medicine 3: Loveless dreaming

I have been obsessed with the music of My Bloody Valentine since I first heard ‘Feed Me With Your Kiss’ and ‘You Made Me Realise’ on John Peel’s radio show when I should have been sleeping.

The music of My Bloody Valentine still draws me in more than that of any other artist. More than The Cure or Burning Spear, more than the music of Andrew Weatherall or Aphex Twin; more than Burial (just, but I’ll come back to him later).

I was 15 when I first started absorbing Peel’s transmissions, and as I approach my fifth decade the MBV obsession shows no signs of fading. As the years have gone by, I have got used to the fact that My Bloody Valentine would not release much new music.

There have been glimpses of Kevin Shields’ genius in remixes like this from Mogwai in 1998 that were probably never quite given the obsession time that Shields needs to polish his gems. His period in the Primal Scream dream team with Mani from the Stone Roses for the XTRMNTR album and subsequent tour in 2000 was luminescent but fleeting – and this was the Scream Team in full collaborative glory, not the heart-wrenching melodies that can only emerge when Shields is left to his own devices.

I love the Lost in Translation film and soundtrack from 2003 – not just for Kevin Shields’ contributions but they are the glue that holds the album together and elevates it.

The MBV album was released seven years ago now in 2013. The subtle disappointment that it was not The Great Leap Forward was soon eclipsed by the sheer loveliness of that familiar blanket of beauty, warmth and electricity. Pop but not pop, rock but not rock – and certainly not rock ‘n’ roll. There but not quite there. Heartbreaking and heartwarming in equal measure.

There is a beautifully revealing interview with Pitchfork from 2018, where Shields claims a new album will emerge in 2019. Another deadline comes and goes. Frankly, I’m okay with that. Take whatever it takes, Kevin.

Down the years, a series of artists have emerged that were similarly inspired by the works of MBV. There have been tonnes of shoegaze bands but the interesting bit for me is where the shoegaze crosses over with electronic music. It is the music hinted at by Shields’ remixes. The likes of Ulrich Schnauss and M83 were early adopters but a bit lightweight.

The genre – electronic shoegaze, if you must – has emerged more forcefully over the last decade with numerous artists influenced by the impressionist ambience of Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada and Burial. This mix is an attempt to bring some of those sounds together and to create an immersive experience somewhat akin to Andrew Weatherall’s New Year masterpiece from 2020. I can’t claim to have achieved that (how could I?) but it was the inspiration, for what it’s worth.

This mix starts gently with the gauzey ambient wash of John Foxx & Harold Budd, then dBridge before gently breaking into the shoegaze vibe with the first of two tracks from Christian Fennesz.

Fennesz is possibly the master of this electronic, shoegaze crossover. He is one of the few guitarists able to conjure the same sort of the warmth and delicacy from a studio that Shields mastered with Loveless.

Fennesz is also a considerably more prolific than Shields. The album Venice (2004) might be his masterpiece (although some might claim that accolade for 2001’s Endless Summer). But if you like this sort of thing then you will equally enjoy his most recent albums Agora and Becs; his collaboration with Ryuchi Sakamoto on Aun; and my favourite the beautifully scorched It’s hard for me to say I’m sorry with Jim O’Rourke.

He features twice here with one of his contributions to the 2015 joint venture with King Midas Sound, Editions 1, and with a remix of Cinematic Orchestra that provides this mix with its emotional climax.

In between the two Fennesz collaborations, the mix goes a little North African with Justin Adams’ ‘Lightshaft’, one of the more ambient moments from his 2017 masterpiece Ribbons, which married gentle North African rhythms with an ambience akin to the Cocteau Twins at their quietest.

The North African vibes are maintained by Egyptian Abdullah Miniawy, whose vocals are teamed with German trio Carl Gari on two powerful tracks from 2019 LP The Act of Falling from the Third Floor.

In between, the master Kevin Shields makes an appearance with Brian Eno providing suitably Middle Eastern sounding moans. The pair teamed up for a Record Day exclusive 12″ in 2018. It feels like a dreadful missed opportunity that the dream team did not follow up with a full-length LP but the two tracks they did leave behind are masterful. ‘A Weight of History’ fitted in here but ‘Only Once Away My Son’ is even better.

Eno and Shields segue into Yamaneko, whose 2017 album Afterglow was a milestone in this ambient-shoegaze crossover thing. The album unfurls like a trip to an outdoor rave, warming up to a fiery climax, before sunrise and a blissful comedown.

Burial is perhaps the only other artist whose music can scratch my heart in the way that MBV do. If Untrue is to be his Loveless, then we can be thankful that he has continued to release a slew of EPs in the thirteen years since his second album was released. The Tunes 2011-2019 compilation of these works is carefully sequenced to provide a holistic listening experience the equal of any artist album.

Burial’s dreams might evoke forgotten raves, night bus chatter, rainy nights and empty streets, but, as with MBV, it always comes from the heart – there’s always the promise of love.

The mix ends with The Aphex Twin’s ‘Blue Calx’ from Selected Ambient Works Volume II – perhaps the point at which this form of electronic dreaming really began.


Weather Patterns – John Foxx & Harold Budd

Mauve – dBridge

Above Water – King Midas Sound and Fennesz

Zyaj – Carl Gari and Abdullah Miniawy

Lightshaft – Justin Adams

A Caged Bird (Fennesz remix) – Cinematic Orchestra feat. Roots Manuva

A Weight of History – Brian Eno and Kevin Shields

Unreachable feeling – Yamaneko

Zawaj – Carl Gari and Abdullah Miniawy

State Forest – Burial

Blue Calx – Aphex Twin


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