Today, I'm going to break the rule of doing a song a day. Sometimes you just gotta break the rules, even your own. Instead, I'm going to write about a video I posted to Youtube, which was My Bloody Valentine's classic album, Loveless, pitched up a semi-tone. You can listen to it here.

I'm not going to go into a breakdown of the album. I'd rather make references to MBV in relation to the other bands I write about. I'm going to relate my experiences with changing the pitch of Loveless (and other albums) to the musical philosophies and interests of Kevin Shields (who's the main creative force behind MBV, especially on their later releases).

Kevin Shields often mentions how one his greatest (if not the greatest) musical influences was The Ramones. The Ramones are well known for their ultra-simplistic approach. They thrive off repetition. But yet, they aren't machines (surprisingly). They're humans that had to keep their musical machine running. They had to be the ones to hit the same chords over and over again. When listening to The Ramones, Shields took a particular interest and enjoyment in how each guitar chord sounded subtly different and unique in regards to how hard or soft Johnny Ramone (Ramones guitarist) hit it. I assume that Johnny Ramone paid no special attention to this specific aspect of his playing; everybody hits chords slightly different when they play guitar based on the idea that you cannot ever do the same thing twice (especially when you consider things on the atomic level). Yet the phenomena seemed to be more apparent in The Ramones' music because the same hypnotic two-or-three chords would be going at all times. It was this initial observation that Shields made that gave birth to his unique style of guitar playing.

Tremolo (or "whammy") bars came to my attention when I heard of groups like Van Halen or something. They were used in guitar solos to make certain notes squeal and climax. Other than that, these bars kind of lay limp. Very minimal usage. But one day, Shields used the tremolo arm while playing chords. He remarked that this newfound technique allowed him to "finally express himself". The technique made him able to exaggerate the phenomena that he first took notice of with the Ramones. This type of guitar-playing with the tremolo bar added another dimension to playing the guitar; it brought the player further into the process of playing guitar because now there was more physical work to be done. It brought another layer of human subtlety into the mix. It became the basis for the signature MBV sound.

Fast forward to about a couple years ago. MBV had not released anything for at least 20 years. Fans of the bands craved a new release. A new release did actually happen a couple years ago, but it was in the form of two remasters of Loveless. At the time, I saw quite a few comments from people sort of peeved by this: "Twenty years, for remasters?". But in the context of MBV, it sort of makes sense. The mastering process of a record includes the tinkering and fine-tuning of the overall equalizer levels (treble, bass, etc.) and the compression levels (overall dynamics). With a sound like MBV's, these subtle changes in overall production would bring out hidden aspects of their sound. Far more than a typical rock group, since a sound like MBVs appears to have more sonic information because of it's apparent "business". With remastering the album twice, I like to think that Shields was treating the entire album of Loveless as one giant guitar chord, and replaced the human hand hitting that chord with a different amalgamation of sonic parameters. 

A couple years ago, I came upon this realization when listening to my cassette copy of Loveless. At that point in time, I wanted the album in every format I could get my hands on. To my surprise, I found I enjoyed the cassette version of the album the best (better than my CD and vinyl versions). I enjoyed it so much, that it became my favourite album all over again. On closer inspection, I found that what was giving me this new appreciation for the album was that the tape was being played slightly faster than normal. It gave the album a brighter, tighter, more embryonic sound. It was like I found another world within the world of Loveless.

Fast forward to now (January 2014). I've starting using the audio program, Audacity, to tinker with the pitch of my favourite songs and albums. Try it yourself. It's one of the simplest, most satisfying, creative acts you can do with a laptop. It's a simple way to interact further with the music you listen to, and to better find out what you like.

Anyways, I decided I'd put up a pitched-up version of Loveless on Youtube. Most people seem to like it, although I think I've played a part in hurting at least one person's ears. One person in particular had the opinion that changing the albums pitch was a faux-pas, that I should not tamper with classic album. I personally don't think of myself as tampering. I see myself as branching off and continuing with the creative process of the album. I see myself as just further exploring the hidden qualities of an album that I adore. Finally, I see my action of changing the pitch of Loveless as something consistent with the origins and philosophy of the band's sound. Does that mean I now feel in tune with each member of MBV? Not really. But I do like writing abut them. And that's why I wrote this today.