Album Reviews

Adem – Takes

(Domino) UK release date: 12 May 2008

Adem Ilhan first came to prominence a few years ago, playing bass in a band called Fridge, alongside Kieran Hebden and popularising what was to become rather dubiously known as ‘folktronica’.

Whereas Hebden, in his Four Tet guise, has gone ever more experimental and electronic, his erstwhile band-mate has almost embarked in the opposite direction. Ilhan’s third album is more folk than ‘tronica’, blessed with heartbreakingly pretty melodies.

Takes is a covers album, a concept that seems to have become ever more popular over recent years. Although these sort of albums could be seen as a cynical attempt to tap into the public’s seemingly endless appetite for nostalgia, it’s obvious that this is a labour of love for Adem.

All the songs here were originally released between 1991 and 2001, and are all numbers that heavily influenced the young Ilhan when growing up and forming his taste in music.

If nothing else, the selection here proves that Adem has rather excellent taste in music – names such as PJ Harvey and Smashing Pumpkins nestle against lesser known luminaries like Tortoise, Low and Bedhead. He’s even tackled not one Aphex Twin cover but two, which demonstrates bravery far beyond the call of duty.

For the most part, Takes is a great success. PJ Harvey’s Oh My Lover has its slightly sinister side softened out, making for a warmer, less neurotic listen, while a stripped down version of Yo La Tengo‘s Tears Are In Your Eyes is beautifully world-weary.

Most impressive is that Aphex Twin number – effortlessly mixing up To Cure A Weakling Child and Boy Girl Song and meshing them together with xylophone, plucked acoustic guitars is a bit of a triumph. Opting to sing the sampled vocals of To Cure A Weakling Child over the melody of Boy Girl Song is a canny choice, and also makes it possible the first Richard D James song that it’s possible to listen to without hiding before a sofa.

Inevitably with a covers album, there are some misfires – the original version of Hotellongue by dEUS is such a towering, epic masterpiece that any cover version is going to come off worse – especially here as Adem opts for a straight-ahead, unplugged rendition. Invisible Man too pales in comparison besides the Breeders‘ original, the quirkiness and charm of Kim Deal’s original being lost here.

However, there are more hits than misses. Gamera showcases some stunning acoustic guitar work which twists and turns inside itself, while Smashing Pumpkins’ Starla is rescued from obscure B-side status and reclaimed as a beautifully judged acoustic ballad. Even better is Bjork‘s Unravel, the child-like sense of wonder of the original somehow being retained, even when sung by a bearded bloke from London rather than an Icelandic pixie.

While this probably won’t go down as Adem’s greatest work (he’s too talented a songwriter in his own right for that to happen), it makes for a nice curio. Also, some of the choices here are so obscure that it could well encourage people to search out the original bands – a good job well done all round then.

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Adem – Takes
Adem – Love and Other Planets