Evocative dreampop perfection…
The career path of Slowdive has taken some strange directions since the shoegaze originally outfit formed in 1989. The band had sprung to life via childhood friends Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell, with Christian Savill, Nick Chapin and Simon Scott coming onboard later when the band began recording music.
Their 1990 album Souvlaki is considered a classic of the era, although the band’s original journey was cut short following the release of ambient electronica album Pygmalion in 1995. It was a definite 45-degree turn from the band’s dense guitar sound, opting for minimalist electronics and looping instead (Unsurprisingly, record label Creation soon parted ways with the band).
Rather than continue as Slowdive, the remaining band members went off in a more country-inspired direction for several years as Mojave 3. But in 2014, they opted to return as Slowdive with a new self-titled album.
Their latest album, Everything Is Alive, largely sticks to the classic Slowdive template. But the album actually arose from material that Neil Halstead had conjured up on modular synthesizers in 2019 for a planned solo record. As a result, at times Everything Is Alive throws a nod to their earlier album Pygmalion with a harder electronic approach (although it skirts around that earlier album’s starker composition).
That said, beguiling lead single ‘Kisses’ sticks closely to Slowdive’s obvious talent for ethereal, gauzy vocals and shimmering guitar fills. Equally, ‘Skin In The Game’ touches on Slowdive’s talent for conjuring up captivating ambient moments via distorted, washed-out guitar. Elsewhere, album opener ‘Shanty’ seems to be a perfect balance between electronics combined with guitar washes to present a dreamlike soundscape. Then there’s the doleful ‘Prayer Remembered’ which opts for a more sober approach with its dreamy, introspective moods.
‘Andalucia Plays’ seems to be striking out for a mashup between atmospheric electronics and Mojave 3’s folksy vocal approach. But it’s the mesmerising ‘alife’ that marks out one of the album’s highlights. There’s a more breezy, rhythmic sensibility at work here. It also presents something of a nod to their Mojave 3 days with a gritty quality to their lyrical narratives (“Time has got me somehow”).
Slowdive’s latest is a demonstration that the band can stick to their classic sound, while also showing a clear evolution in how they compose music. Everything Is Alive is a haunting, hypnotic slice of dreampop that’s worth investigating.
Everything Is Alive is out now on Dead Oceans