Resuming the celestial space they sent aswirl 19 years prior, British band Slowdive reunited in 2014, spinning shoegaze-lovers everywhere into the outer cosmos. That summer, they shimmied across the Northern Hemisphere, bringing brilliance to festival stages in Europe and Asia before breezing across North America with indie trio Low in the fall. Had Slowdive left us suspended then, in wait again, longtime fans would surely have fallen misty, but we would have ultimately understood for we’d grown accustomed.
Slowdive, after all, blazed the halcyon years of shoegaze, fashioning an ethereal genre that envelops the listener in rapturous washes of reverberation. From 1991 to 1995, they gifted us three albums that vary in atmosphere, but coalesce around a fuzzy, unhurried sense of beauty. But soon after the release of 1995’s Pygmalion, Slowdive vocalists/guitarists Rachel Goswell and Neil Halstead and percussionist Ian McCutcheon signed to (now legendary) 4AD as Mojave 3. With their shift in record label and band name, Slowdive dissolved. As the years stretched on, we fans yearned for their return—but mostly with musing resignation. In some ways, the pining made our love stronger.
With the delightful surprise of the 2014 tour, we dared to hope for something more. And finally, 22 years after their last proper album alights the self-titled long-playing miracle, Slowdive.
Transcendence, it seems, comes easy in the world of Slowdive. For now, in 2017, we’re in an unfathomable era of political atrocities and digital abundance, and yet it only takes seconds for Slowdive’s sonic wizardry to captivate your mind and catapult you off into realms blissfully uncharted. Glistening opener “Slomo” casts the Slowdive spell, dangling and jangling in its looper-pedalled persuasion. Keeping with the band’s characteristic aura, Halstead’s honeyed singing soars and softens amid layers of swelling sound, making it difficult to distill every lyric, but the words “give me your heart” ring out recurrently—a request that warrants no repetition, given Slowdive’s ardent fan base. By the time Goswell’s airy backing vocals chime in toward the song’s end, the euphoria opens full bloom. And it’s hard to believe we endured a world without Slowdive at all.
Moreover, they sound elated to be back. On the whole, the eight-track voyage traverses similar ambient landscapes as their early ‘90s repertoire, but the songs unfurl more fully and boldly. And while this album probably won’t entice the impatient, single “Star Roving” as well as the Goswell-led “Don’t Know Why” and “Everyone Knows,” assisted by Nick Chaplin’s prominent basslines, are the most pop-leaning they’ve ever been. Perhaps it’s because the once marginalized shoegaze style has since laced itself into the indie rock mainstream. And while Slowdive pioneered the aesthetic, they couldn’t help being influenced by those their music helped shape. In fact, producer/mixer Chris Coady, who works with modern-day shoegazers like Beach House, put the finishing touches on the record.
Although more accessible than previous efforts, Slowdive stay true to their long-established aesthetic. Songs like “No Longer Making Time” and “Sugar for the Pill” (the album’s second single) hint at the hazy, embellished delirium of Slowdive’s early days, with bittersweet poetics, rippling guitars, and enunciated drums (courtesy of Simon Scott, who played on Slowdive’s first two albums, Just for a Day and Souvlaki, which are utterly gorgeous through and through).
After the towering ascension spiraling through most of the album, the last two tracks are slower, more contemplative pieces that bring us back to earth. Reminiscent of “Bare,” the closing track on The Cure’s Wild Mood Swings (1996), “Go Get It” strikes a delicate balance between sparse and lush before seguing into the stunning, looping piano-plucked melody of “Falling Ashes.” Boasting a gloriously simple chorus (“Thinking about love / Thinking about love”) that echoes into the ether, it’s a slightly different direction for Slowdive and perhaps offers a glimpse of their next venture. Which is to say where we’d once accepted Slowdive’s absence as a dismal reality, their revival has rendered me vulnerable again, desperately craving more.
Notable Tracks: “Falling Ashes” | “No Longer Making Time” | “Slomo” | “Sugar for the Pill”