When I See the Sun Always Shines on TV

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As artists experimenting at the extreme edges of metal and ambient electronics, Aidan Baker and Leah Buckareff are intriguing candidates to record a covers album. Songs by a diverse array of bands, from Swans to a-ha, receive Nadja's perverse Midas touch: every track is transformed into a gloriously doomy, molasses-thick dronescape, with sustained, effects-laden chords that threaten to reverberate on into the next day. You'd expect a metal cover here and Nadja oblige with Slayer's "Dead Skin Mask," featuring some surprisingly conventional riffage amid its dense layers. Swans, too, are an obvious choice given their relentless dirges. Interestingly, Nadja pick an originally acoustic number from the band's more accessible phase, albeit infusing the track with the pounding menace characteristic of early Swans. Nadja's obligatory novelty selections include Kids in the Hall's "Long Dark Twenties" and a-ha's "The Sun Always Shines on TV," the latter improbably preserving some of the original's catchiness. Certain source materials, however, leave no room for Nadja to work their magic. Take My Bloody Valentine's "Only Shallow," which is already drone-filled and cacophonous. Baker and Buckareff give it more heft, slow the tempo, and ratchet up the distortion but in doing so, they flatten the song, stifling its energy and fragile melodicism: while the original was compelling for its balance of beauty and brutality, Nadja lose that dynamic. Covers albums are only worth doing if a band makes the songs its own and the Canadian duo have such a distinctive aesthetic that you'd think it would be easy for them to claim others' material. But since they're mostly tackling short tracks with vocals and traditional verse/chorus structures, there's little space to construct the epic, amorphous symphonies that are their forte. Bereft of that scope, these covers aren't as strong as Nadja's own compositions. Nevertheless, this is an interesting diversion giving insight into the band's coordinates.

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