Music Reviews

Adem Takes

(Domino) Buy it from Insound Rating - 8/10

“They say you were something in those formative years”, sang Tori Amos in 1994. Fridge honcho Adem Ilhan’s latest collection, twelve beautiful cover versions of songs written during his own formative years of 1991-2001, reveal not the something he was, but the something he has become.

Albums of covers are notoriously difficult beasts; some are chaotic and superbly messy (Nick Cave’s Kicking Against The Pricks), while some can sound a little too over-thought and academic (Tori Amos’ 2001 collection Strange Little Girls springs to mind, flawed despite some superb moments). And, of course, the greatest folly for such a project is that of utter redundancy; why should anyone care to listen to one artist’s karaoke fantasies? Happily, Takes avoids these pitfalls, and is the most personal album of cover songs this reviewer has heard, and belies its punning title with renditions of tracks by artists as diverse as Bjork, Pinback, Lisa Germano and Low. Remarkably, Adem is able to make each song sound perfectly organic and sincere, his chiming acoustic guitar and rough, plaintive voice making for an album that is rich, evocative and haunting in turns.

P J Harvey’s Oh My Lover is sparse and powerful, while Yo La Tengo’s Tears Are In Your Eyes is deliciously beautiful. Best of all, perhaps, though, is a cover of Aphex Twin’s To Cure A Weakling Child / Boy Girl Song, morphed here into a gorgeously cyclical, ringing guitar and vocal refrain, and demonstrating best Adem’s achievement here: the demonstration of how to pull influences from a wide variety of sources and filter them into a single artistic vision. The Smashing Pumpkins’ Starla, for example, works precisely because while Adem has no ability, or desire, to strip the song of Billy Corgan’s songwriting influence, he turns it into a track which sounds like nothing more than an Adem composition.

If Takes has a weakness, it is caused by this very same tendency; the album is occasionally a little one-note, and could benefit from some more imaginative arrangements, particularly in the second half, where it is easy for the listener to tire of the same diet for some fifty minutes. The sheer quality of the songs Adem has chosen, however, is enough for the album to succeed regardless (with one exception; Tortoise’s instrumental Gamera adds nothing to the album and could easily have been dropped from the tracklisting without compromising the album in any way). Of course, the album’s secondary function is as a kind of 90s indie sampler; speaking personally, I am now eager to investigate the music of artists like Bedhead and dEUS after this introduction to their work.

Adem has outdone himself, and has created what may be the strongest record of his solo career so far, and Takes merits hearing as an album in its own right, as well as being one of the best exponents of the maligned covers album genre. Highly recommended.