• OVERVIEW •
An odd DADGAD variant – it is transposed upwards 3 semitones, with 2str dropped into unison with 3str, and 1str raised by a further whole tone (equivalent to ‘DADGGE capo 3’). Showcased by My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields on Blown a Wish (with a 1fr capo), track nine from their droning masterpiece Loveless (1991).
Offers up low-side power chords along with a glorious variety of horizontal intervals – e.g. compare the loose unison of 3>2str and the vast maj. 6th gap between 2>1str (0 vs. 9 semitones). Requires a restring, capo, or downward transposition – your chosen tension profile will determine much of the character and feel.
Harmony: Fsus4(add9) | 1-5-1-4-4-2
• TUNING TONES •
• SOUNDS •
Caroline Pastrano, writing in Afterglow, describes how “Blown a Wish may have the most unique usage of vocals on [Loveless]. Aside from the main melody, various harmonies are layered into the mix…giving the impression of voice as simply another instrument”.
To me, the human voice always sparks up something unique in our aural psyche – i.e. it only becomes ‘simply another instrument’ when shrouded in enough studio effects that we don’t recognise it as a voice (although the nature of the ‘conscious vs. subconscious’ bounds here remain unclear). Nevertheless, MBV’s vocal-processing ingenuity is undeniable – in an Alternative Press interview, Kevin Shields recounts how “On Loveless, most of the tracks are between 10 and 18 vocals at the same time, all on top of each other. That dry, upfront vocal is gone”.
- Blown a Wish (album) – MBV (1991):
“Show me all your favourite things,
Show you all mine too,
Make a wish, I’ll give it all to you…”
Floating through this multi-layered haze, Bilinda Butcher’s lyrics sketch dreamlike scenes of attachment, almost child-like in their simplicity (“Midnight wish, blow me a kiss…Make like this, trying to pretend it’s true”). But despite their magic, texture still predominates (as per MBV fan pepper396 on Reddit: “Blown a Wish is just Bilinda saying ‘awoo’ and ‘uwu’ for three minutes and thirty six seconds – prove me wrong”).
Shields’ slow, subtle use of the whammy bar blends seamlessly with these vocal layers, blurring the boundaries between singing and strings. The extent of the whammy effect will vary with string tension, something accentuated by the quirks of the tuning – e.g. although 2+3str are both tuned to the same note, their differing tensions will ‘pull them apart’ slightly when the whammy is applied, creating odd phasing effects.
Find out more about the track’s guitarology in a tutorial breakdown from mbvtunings (“Effects: Clean signal with 100% wet reverse reverb from Yamaha SPX-90 should get you most of the way there…”). And also check out well-versed international covers by Japancakes, Shinobu Narita, and Pas De Printemps Pour Marnie.
- Blown a Wish (London) – MBV (1991):
“Fall apart my beating heart,
Nothing left to do,
Once in love, I’ll be the death of you…”
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• NUMBERS •
- See my Tunings Megatable for further such nerdery: more numbers, intervallic relations, comparative methods, etc. And to any genuine vibratory scientists reading: please critique my DIY analysis!
• RELATED •
—Associated tunings: proximities of shape, concept, context, etc…
- Open Dsus: the world-renowned DADGAD is close by
- Albert Collins: another tight-wound F, this time minor
- Zen Drone: also includes a unison-tuned 2/3str pair
• MORE INFO •
—Further learnings: sources, readings, lessons, other onward links…
- MBV’s tunings: learn more about their madcap layouts in my Altered-tuned Artists article – and for fuller listings, check out the heroic compilation efforts of Reddit user mbvtunings4u, as well as further discussion on the Simple Machines forum (“I listened for drone notes, tuned the highest strings accordingly, and then tried to figure out the remaining notes on each chord. I did have some help on a few from Kevin’s former roadie…”)
- What even is ‘shoegaze’ anyway? get deeper into the workings of this supposedly pedal-staring zone with Pitchfork‘s top 50 albums list – and also hear from Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite (“‘shoegaze’ is a dumb term made up by clueless NME idiots…It’s pretty demeaning as well”), and read a feature from 3:AM Magazine (“Generally speaking, it is definitely preferable to separate sentimental nostalgia from music journalism, [but] for me, shoegazing came along at that critical time…when you finally obtain something approaching a disposable income, and discover the joys of alcohol and the opposite sex…”)
Header image: from Loveless album cover (1991)
George Howlett is a London-based musician, writer, and teacher (guitars, sitar, tabla, & santoor). Above all I seek to enthuse fellow sonic searchers, interconnecting fresh vibrations with the voices, cultures, and passions behind them. See Home & Writings, and hit me up for Online Lessons!
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