There has never been a genre so singularly dominated by one album as shoegaze has been by Loveless. Recorded over two years in nineteen different studios, Loveless represents Kevin Shields’ ambitious exploration of the sounds and textures that are possible with an electric guitar. The result is an ethereal record of heavily distorted walls of sound, endlessly layered riffs, generous applications of tremolo and effect pedals, and sparse, androgynous vocals set so low in the mix that they glide over the listener like another instrument in the background. The track compositions have a melodic foundation, but the sense of melody is never fully available, wavering in and out as though the notes were ever slightly out of reach. This pioneering sound was hugely influential in the shoegazing scene of the United Kingdom during the late 80’s and early 90’s, spawning countless nu-gaze imitator bands that have been in vogue since the turn of the millennium.
Shoegaze was first coined by the media as a derogatory term disparaging bands for their tendency to perform in a stoic, instrospective manner, focusing intently on their feet with which they could manipulate their extensive pedalboards. Contemporaries of My Blood Valentine such as Slowdive, Ride, and Chapterhouse could be described as shoegaze in the superficial sense that they utilized heavy distortion and reverberation, but on closer examination it is apparent that the output of these bands was for the large part, simple obfuscated britpop. Proto-shoegaze/noise pop bands, such as the Jesus and Mary Chain, and nu-gaze revival bands suffer from the same syndrome in that they attempt to create the percept of psychedelia by dressing up basic pop songs with extraneous pedals and effects. What is accomplished on Loveless is the opposite process – Shields manages to find harmony and melody in chaotic textures and soundscapes.
Despite their lack of commercial success and abrupt hiatus, My Bloody Valentine remain among the most influential and ground-breaking musical acts of the last few decades. Genres as varied as dream pop, black metal, neo-psychedelia, experimental hip-hop, post-punk, and post-rock can all claim influences from Loveless.
My Bloody Valentine – To Here Knows When