Adem Ilhan's 2004 debut Homesongs was a delight indeed, bristling with home-made charm and sparkling with all sorts of intimate delicacies. It was fragile and vulnerable but used enough touches of Fridge's, his former band's, eccentricities to separate it from all the other male singer-songwriters that were his contemporaries. By the time his followup, Love And Other Planets had emerged two years later the market was brimming over with such artists and for me Adem was lost in their cacophony of breathy chatter. So with this third album I was pleased to see a slightly different approach. That approach comes in the form of Takes, a collection of cover versions of songs released in the decade between 1991 - 2001, a period of great musical influence to Adem. So with this interesting slant on not only an Adem album but a covers album, coupled with the newly reformed Fridge I was expecting some sort of step away from the comfort zones this artists has resided in for too long.
Sadly I was disappointed once again. Takes starts off so well with a quietly dazzling version of Bedhead's 1992 single Bedside Table. Adem's voice is soft but confident with his hushed tones following gently alongside his delicate finger-picking and gently fuzzy backing-effects. It's one of the longer songs on the record and follows a repeated vocal pattern that takes its time to get the album started but serves as a strong introduction. PJ Harvey's Dry, from the same year, follows and keeps the standard and strength going. These versions are heavily stripped down to their bare bones but Adem retains their melody with a fuller production than his previous home recordings, playing every instrument himself.
Unfortunately Lisa Germano's Slide marks the start of the gradual slide back into Adem obscurity. Be it the choice of songs or their treatment here but throughout most of the latter part of this record Adem works as a musical Pol Pot by sweeping aside all the varied characteristics of these different songs and reducing them all to the Adem norm. For him to cover Aphex Twin seems like a task indeed but his treatment of To Cure A Weakling Child is a lesson in biting off more than you can chew. He sets himself this mammoth challenge then shys away from it by delivering yet another delicate folktronic ditty. To contrast this choice, his decision to take on Yo La Tengo's Tears Are In Your Eyes is a no brainer. A fragile song dripping in melancholy is a simple enough gig for Ilhan but I guess the real skill is how he manages to make it sound like his Aphex Twin song. That can't be easily done but he seems to pull it off time after time from here on in going through such varied source material as Smashing Pumpkins, Tortoise, The Breeders and ending with another no-brainer. Low's Laser Beam is a hollow masterpiece that simply doesn't suit this singer's voice. He screeches his way through it's empty corridors reducing it to just another slightly annoying Adem song. I applaud his choices here as they too are a collection of songs from a very informative time in my own life but his treatment and reluctance to stray from his usual blueprint level a creative decade out to simple mediocrity.