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Slowdive, in my opinion, are perhaps one of the premier shoegazers of the initial wave of the genre. Recording one of the landmarks with 1993’s Souvlaki and following it up with the radically different Pygmalion, Slowdive have cemented themselves as one of the giants of the effects-obsessed artform. Sometimes drifting in between heavenly dream pop bliss with cuts such as “Machine Gun” and the Eno-produced duo “Sing” and “Here She Comes”, to the abstract ambiance that permeated all of 1995’s Pygmalion, Slowdive can easily be not only the definitive entry-point to any curious onlooker, but the ultimate crossover from more conventional rock music to the incredibly diverse/divisive shoegazing genre.

In consideration to the amount of time I’ve spent listening to Slowdive – a whopping thirteen months (according to my last.fm: about 407 plays as of this writing; since Oct. 31st of 2016), I’ve still found myself somewhat overwhelmed with the near-abrupt shifts in their repertoire from album to album, although their catalogue is rather minuscule and far more accessible than some of their other contemporaries. Plus, they have the benefit of not promising an album to their fanbase, then pulling off the most drawn out disappearing act on them over a course of two decades, so Slowdive already have their priorities straightened out quite nicely.

This guide, in keeping with the recently established tradition I’ve forced upon myself (and will most likely alter in future iterations), will give a streamlined overview of the band’s works, along with a sampler that will hopefully guide the uninitiated into the glorious band that is Slowdive.

With the band’s self-titled debut on Nov. 5, 1990, Slowdive introduced the world (or if we’re being realistic here, the Brits) to a more lush-sounding type of shoegaze that was vastly different to the rough and noise pop-inspired music that their Irish contemporaries My Bloody Valentine were creating at the time. Personally speaking, it’s a respectable debut record, but in the long run, is something that couldn’t possibly stand up to their later triumphs. The same can be said for their feature-length debut Just For A Day the following year:

Whereas their self-titled EP brought us a band who had several ideas waiting to be unleashed and further developed, their first record Just For A Day opted out in favor of a more watered-down product. After two promising EPs that showcased a band coming into their own with their brand of glistening guitar work and ethereal vocalization, the record that came of this buildup is nothing short of underwhelming. To put it short, the sound the band had been looking for just isn’t there – yet, at least:

Enter Brian Eno. The band, in their attempts to pursue the ambient forefather (and one-time popster turned producer), are turned down; however, they are able to get two tracks in particular produced for their follow-up Souvlaki: “Sing” and  “Here She Comes”. Both tracks seamlessly fit into the concise soundscapes that the band had produced in the past year. Most of the songs included on the album, considered their magnum opus, are now considered to be shoegaze classics, including “Alison”, “Machine Gun”, “40 Days” and “Souvlaki Space Station”. Hints of what were to come are vaguely present on album closer “Dagger”:

A few months after the release of Souvlaki came the unveiling of the incredibly left-field 5 EP, which shifted from the band’s comfortably dream pop sound to increasingly lethargic and atmospheric realms that took on an electronic guise that would ultimately be restricted to this particular record, but traces of the future direction the band took are ever present:

Onward to the end of the original run of the band itself and with increasingly negative views of the shoegaze genre, Slowdive were now on their last leg with the departure of drummer Simon Scott, with various disagreements regarding the artistic direction of the band playing a major part in his departure and the gradual disintegration of the band in general. Mainly written by Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell, Pygmalion marked the definite end of Slowdive. Their label, Creation, in a rush to capitalize on the burgeoning success that was Britpop, and in an eager rush to rid the label of “undesirables” (read: shoegazers), dropped them and deleted Pygmalion only a few weeks after its release in 1995. Eschewing the softer sounds of prior works in favor of sparse ambient compositions that defied the shoegaze aesthetic, it served as a crossover between shoegaze and ambient. It also wouldn’t be a stretch to deem it as part of the initial wave of post-rock, along with the likes of Laughing Stock, Spiderland, Hex, and (dare I say) Soundtracks for the Blind:

Now to fast forward to the present day and three years into the ongoing comeback of Slowdive, we now stumble upon the band’s first record in twenty-two years with… another self-titled record. Very original of you. As to the material we are presented with, it’s rather impressive for entirely new music and shows us a band that haven’t lost their touch — even if, with their self-titled comeback, they’re obviously relying a bit too much on the blueprint of Souvlaki, which hopefully isn’t a crutch they don’t grow too comfortable with in the near future:

The Definitive Slowdive Record: Pygmalion
(Feb. 6, 1995, Creation)

Aaron

Here’s a playlist that includes all the videos shown here and other essentials for those who don’t know where to start with Slowdive:




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