Slowdive materializes once again from the nebulous vastness of space and time with an uplifting, re-envisioned, self-titled album. After releasing Pygmalion in 1995 and being dropped from Creation Records, the band’s members dissipated and reformed as several offshoots including, Mojave 3 and Monster Movie in the coming years. In 2014, the band hinted on Twitter that they were reuniting. In 2017, they signed with Dead Oceans and released their first single in 22 years.
Slowdive features drummer Simon Scott, who left the band after their 1993 album, Souvlaki, which consequently sounds reminiscent of it. Contrarily, the album differs greatly from Pygmalion in energy, texture and composition. The drums have moved to the foreground in several of the tracks and are the driving force in maintaining and supporting the movement of the swelling, ethereal guitars and vocals.
Texture-wise, Slowdive is comparable to My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, but it retains chord progressions more similar to previous works as well as Beach House’s Bloom. The composition is well planned, each part of the song flowing into the next without interruption. Many of the songs have two-minute intros before the vocals start, which in the case of shoegaze is paramount because it allows the listener to be enveloped totally by the realm of each song before reaching any sort of plot.
The album begins from nothingness. The guitars fade in, each strum like a tiny bolt of lightning, and suddenly you are swept away by an anxious drum beat similar to Lush’s “Superblast!” The title of the opening track, “Slomo,” contradicts the feeling of the song; the name would have been better suited for one of the tracks off Pygmalion, where everything was slower paced.
“Slomo” takes you for a ride. It’s an attention grabber, and at the same time it feels like a testament to the reestablishment of the band. It speaks to its fans and lets them know that they’re back and all they have is love for those of you who are still here and have been waiting all this time to hear another album. Of course fans were never too far away since the members had gone on to form other bands that included Slowdive’s core members Neil Halstead, Rachel Goswell and Christian Savill.
The second track titled, “Star Roving,” was the first single to be released off Slowdive. It has an energetic quality similar to “Slomo,” but feels deeper and thicker. Pitchfork’s Marc Hogan, called it “revisionism, not revivalism”. Slowdive at this point is able to pick and choose from a variety of styles they have experimented with in the past. That being said, “Star Roving” sounds like something off of Souvlaki, but this time around all the kinks have been ironed out.
In “Don’t Know Why,” the energy and driving force of the drums continues to whisk you away to a place outside existence. The airy vocal harmonies float elegantly over the guitar and drums, beckoning the listener to come closer. Be one with us in the emptiness of space. Follow us into the center of a star where it’s hot enough to dissolve your entire being. That’s where you’ll find love.
It’s not until “Sugar For The Pill,” the second single off Slowdive, that we get a chance to breathe. Up until now, we’ve only been taking off. We’ve finally reached the stratosphere, and now we can float for a bit. This track is definitely one of my favorites on the album. It begins with gilded, shimmering guitars followed by a pulsing, four-on-the-floor kick and rich, moving bassline, a perfect pocket designed to carry Halstead’s spectral vocal lines. He writes,
“And I rolled away
Said we never wanted much
Just a rollercoast’
Our love has never known the way
Sugar for the pill
You know it’s just the way things are
Cannot buy the sun
This jealousy will break the whole”
In other words, you can’t have everything you want in life. If you don’t let go, you will ruin what you had. Take nothing for granted. At least that is my take on the song, however, I believe Halstead may have left it open to interpretation.
The album continues to breathe and expand until it ultimately reaches the final track of the album, “Falling Ashes,” another one of my favorites because it encompasses the totality of Slowdive’s creativity. The track is eight minutes, but its length is hardly noticeable. The track develops continuously keeping the listener curious and eager for what comes next. “Falling Ashes” has the most complex texture of all of the songs on the album. There are pieces of guitar noise and plucked notes which loop in the background as a sort of counterpoint to the main piano riff. Bitcrushed pads phase in and out like an electron cloud around an excited atom. The vocals are solemn yet sultry, similar to Ride’s “Ride The Wind.” The chorus, a single line, “Thinking about love,” is repeated over and over, summing up the theme of the entire album. Eventually, the instruments fade away and Slowdive ends how it began.
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