Slowdive makes unprecedented return
The shoegaze trailblazers modernize their origins in self-titled release. | bandcamp.com
As the pioneers of shoegaze, Slowdive has an unwavering place in music history, yet they put their pristine image on the line with their first album in 22 years.
Like many others, I cringed at the possible direction this band would take, considering they have not released music since 1995. After evaporating into obscurity alongside the apex era of shoegaze, Slowdive has returned with an album that sounds familiar but distinct from their previous releases. In fact, their self-titled release heightens their image as a transcendent quartet of shoegaze artists.
The renewed Slowdive did not reform to capitalize on nostalgia, but to enhance a sound they pioneered in the ‘90s. This album is profound and textured. Through an initial listen, the album’s sonic scapes harken to “Souvlaki,” with each cosmic swell and woozy swirl of guitar — dissonant and arched by Rachel Goswell and Neil Halstead’s breathy voices. But to avoid the shoegaze revival label, “Slowdive” tactfully subverts such notions with a contemporary nuance that envelops each composition. While there are moments where this album sounded like Slowdive recorded it in the ‘90s, the subtle breadth of new-age production helps us remember that this is an extension of Slowdive’s artistic capabilities rather than a drawback into older material.
The band’s familiarly elaborate murals of shimmering chords perfectly juxtapose with a modern touch of gauzy synths that contribute to the band’s shivering tenderness. There are many moments on this album where a subliminal response would be expected, as each offering of varying sounds is palatable yet so distant. “Slomo” is delightfully intricate yet belittles any expectation of where this album will go.
The danceable “Star Roving” pulsates and bursts into a more embellished composition as it methodically unravels. The distinctive guitar tones alongside the buoyant drum patterns of “Sugar for the Pill” reprises Slowdive of yesteryear. “Falling Ashes,” the last track on the album, transfixes the listener with an experimental piano piece that invokes the same internal sensation when looking at a clear night sky, where nothing clouds the pristine, star-crossed view. Every soundscape on this album pulls listeners in at the mercy of the elusive vocals of Goswell and Halstead, bringing a sense of certainty in the midst of a shoegaze daze only Slowdive can induce.
With their self-titled, Slowdive crushes fears of a nostalgic rehash. The band’s fourth studio album creates a means for listeners to get lost in themselves and eventually find their will through engrossing compositions only Slowdive is capable of delivering. With nebulous melodies enveloped by sweeping, ethereal chords, “Slowdive” will undoubtedly draw comparisons to its sophomore predecessor “Souvlaki.” Nevertheless, its expansive direction and modern production make it a singular distinctive work of art with more vigor than anything they have released before. With this sulky eight-track success, Slowdive has succeeded in making shoegaze into something that can bridge generations and lead a true revival of a genre they themselves pioneered.