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K-Pop Album Crossover: 11 Korean Bands Reimagine A My Bloody Valentine Classic On The Inventive 'Blue Loveless' [AUDIO]

By Jeff Tobias | August 22, 2014 03:46 PM EDT

From an early age, we learn by imitation. That goes double for musicians.

A great deal of music gets made on the pay it forward model; you had your mind blown by someone great and you want to do the same for someone else.

Or you could go in the opposite direction. Instead of paying it forward, you can pay it back. This concept sometimes manifests itself in the form of tribute albums like "Blue Loveless."

The 11 Korean bands featured on this 2012 reimagining of My Bloody Valentine's seminal 1991 album "Loveless" don't try to beat the Irish shoegazing gods at their own game. Rather, "Blue Loveless" simultaneously sees these groups paying it back by covering MBV, but paying it forward by putting their own creative spin on each song.

The challenges facing a band seeking to go toe-to-toe with one of the most lauded albums of the last 25 years are many. Namely, how do you improve on the original? How do you best the best?

For context, My Bloody Valentine are primarily known for three things, their breakout classic "Loveless," their blisteringly loud live shows, and their disappointing disappearance.

Formed in Dubin in 1983, the group was dropped from Creation Records less than a year after "Loveless" was released, after nearly bankrupting the label attempting to make the followup album. Though Island Records picked them up in 1992, haunted by guitarist and chief songwriter Kevin Shields's legendary studio perfectionism, the group disbanded five years later.

The elusive followup to "Loveless" wouldn't come until a year after this compilation "Blue Loveless" was released. My Bloody Valentine released "m b v" in 2013, following six years of international touring after all four original members reunited in 2007.

Though "m b v" received nearly unanimous critical acclaim, any die-hard fan knows it would be nearly impossible to top an album with the groundbreaking gusto of "Loveless." The genre-defining mixture of heavenly melodies with oceanic layers of effected guitars would prove to be an enduring inspiration for shoegaze groups like A Place to Bury Strangers, Mogwai and countless others.

Released by Seoul-based label Electric Muse Records, "Blue Loveless" isn't the first tribute to MBV's masterwork. It's not even the first one to come out of Asia; a Japanese tribute called "Yellow Loveless"  featured internationally known groups like Boris and Shonen Knife.

The acts on "Blue Loveless" aren't as famous as the ones on "Yellow Loveless," but their obscurity isn't for a lack of ambition. Each act featured on the compilation seems driven to prove themselves not only as musicians but as recording studio auteurs.

And while it is a tribute album, "Blue Loveless" is not an exercise in imitation.

None of the contributors seek to "out-My Bloody Valentine" My Bloody Valentine. Rather than heaping on the distortion, delay and musical gauze that "Loveless" is famous for, these groups embrace the album's wistful melodies and run off with them in their own directions.

One of the most striking offerings here is Jowall's version of "When You Sleep."

This prolific solo artist grafts that song's album-defining melody onto unexpected jazz chords and sparse drums that appear to be somewhere off in the distance. At a few smart moments, Jowall does something Kevin Shields would've never done. He pulls the entire mix into sudden, unexpected moments of silence.

Purists need not wring their hands, though. By the song's close, he's done the MBV equivalent of dropping the bass, giving the listeners the crushing distortion they're used to. It's as thoughtful interpretation of My Bloody Valentine as I've ever heard.

Even further off the beaten path, the Korean-American band Kihap contributes an expansive, synth-laden version of "Sometimes."

Kihap, which includes "Blue Loveless" co-curator Seung Hoon Choi, give the song an insistent descending keyboard lick and pounding drums to drive that song into sweeping new territory, a far cry from the solitude and wash of the original.

Also noteworthy, Seoul trio Sunkyeol take one of the more curious moments on "Loveless," the brief instrumental "Touching," and expand it into their own instrumental bliss-out. What was once a minute-long, sample-based mini-fantasia of VHS-esque fuzz, becomes a crystal clear singalong with the natural quality of a field recording.

To find so much material in such a short piece demonstrates this group's creativity, as well as their imagination.

While imitation is often the original impulse for musicians, it seems that the Korean bands on "Blue Loveless" were inspired by more than just the sound of the album they were paying tribute to. They were inspired by the risks taken by Shields and company and decided to pay it back by being equally daring in their own right.

Listen to the Korean rock tribute album "Blue Loveless" RIGHT HERE


Jeff Tobias is a composer, multi-instrumentalist, and writer currently living in Brooklyn, New York. Most recently, he has been researching the history of tuning systems and working on his jump shot.  

Tagged :  blue loveless, my bloody valentine, electric muse, sunkyeol, kihap, jowall, K-Pop Crossover

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