Next month, Living Statue Records will put out the Magnetic Fields covers compilation You Can Sing Me Anything: A Tribute to 69 Love Songs, and L.A’s Tomemitsu turns the unconventional “I Shatter” into a dreamy melancholy pop song, exchanging Merritt’s processed voice and cello for a bass/guitar/drums arrangement that’d fit nicely on the b-side of a Cure single. That “Shatter” transforms so elegantly offers further affirmation of Merritt’s songwriting prowess—proof that a good song is a good song, separate from genre or style—and showcases Tomemitsu’s imagination and capability, too. His “Shatter” respects the original but isn’t just a reproduction. It’s Merritt’s words, but Tomemitsu’s voice. And he’d never heard the song until he was invited to contribute to the comp, he says:
“When Steve [from Living Statue] asked me to join in on the Magnetic Fields benefit compilation I thought… ‘Here’s a band I’ve heard name dropped but never got into.’ When a band puts out an album spanning 69 tracks, it’s usually an indication I won’t be able to listen to it from start to finish. I value prolific song writing and am a believer in failure being a path to success, so I heartily took on the challenge and listened to the 40 or so songs that hadn’t yet been claimed.
‘I Shatter’ stood out to me because of the cello, my first instrument, and the similarities I heard to Arthur Russell, who also does an amazing blend of cello with experimental elements. When I record cover songs I typically try to make them pretty different by altering the instrumentation, tempo, or the vocal delivery. The original ‘I Shatter’ is kind of a skeletal song with just cello loops, 3 short verses, and a computer-y voice—so it seemed an ideal candidate for extreme reinterpretation.
I listened to the song for a couple weeks and one weekend this chilled-out version seeded itself in my head. It was fun taking elements of the original and recreating them with different instruments: like the cello being replaced by an echo-driven harmonic guitar line, or recording the background computer vocal lines through a tremolo pedal. I think that my interpretation reveals that The Magnetic Fields have a lot of underlying beauty made challenging through their production process, and that’s something that I really love about experimental music—the challenge and the discovery.”
You Can Sing Me Anything: A Tribute to 69 Love Songs is out Dec. 14 on Living Statue, with proceeds going to RAINN, The Sylvia Rivera Law Project and The United Way of Genesee County. Tomemitsu will finish a west coast tour this month with a show with Steady Holiday and Water Slice at the Bootleg on Sun., Nov. 18.
Wednesday 11/14 – Sunset Tavern, Seattle WA
Thursday 11/15 – Mississippi Studios, Portland, OR
Friday 11/16 – Experimental Show TBA, Arcata, CA
Saturday 11/17 – Cafe du Nord, San Francisco, CA
Sunday 11/18 – Bootleg Theater, Los Angeles, CA
Monday 11/19 – The Casbah, San Diego, CA