Slowdive were the standard-bearers of shoegaze and dream pop. Standing alongside My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive released some of the finest, if not the finest, recorded output of the bands involved in the scene back in the ’90s. 22 years on, they have returned with an entirely worthy addition to their back catalog, and have shown themselves to be one of the few bands that can return from hiatus and not blemish their legacy.
Album opener Slomo is a statement of intent from the band; spacey, dream-like guitar sounds, with a watery production effect on the vocals. It is a return to their classic sound and, if you’ve listened to Slowdive before, generates a warm feeling of familiarity within the first few seconds. I was hooked from the get-go. Slomo evokes classic Cocteau Twins and is undoubtedly one of the albums highlights. Lead-single Star Roving is next, and where Slomo was a throwback to classic Slowdive and a nod to Cocteau Twins, Star Roving comes racing out of the gates with a more upbeat, forceful sound; reminiscent of bands from the more recent new-wave of shoegaze, such as DIIV. These two tracks illustrate the overall mood of the album; a reflection of the past, and what made Slowdive so influential and enjoyable in the first place. They acknowledge the genre’s evolution and what people expect from a shoegaze record in 2017.
twinkling guitar parts interwoven perfectly with the ethereal vocals
The album’s production really does add to its mood and impact. The importance of effective production and mixing on a shoegaze album is underappreciated; here we have the twinkling guitar parts interwoven perfectly with the ethereal vocals, backed by the rolling yet never overbearing drum sound, and a bass guitar sound that is luscious and involving; check out Sugar for the Pill for the most obvious example of how the production on this album lifts it into greatness.
The atmosphere that is generated by this record is palpable. Whilst what is presented here is undoubtedly a conventional collection of songs, the importance of mood throughout Slowdive is evident. The band has created a soundscape; something to get lost in. As the piano keys of closer, Falling Ashes begin, you’ll find yourself feeling as though you’ve completed a great journey – and an emotional one at that.
With this release, Slowdive have unquestionably cemented their position as legends of the shoegaze scene. It is rare that a band can return with such a familiar yet engaging record that doesn’t leave anything to be desired. If you’ve never listened to Slowdive before, start from the beginning; work your way forwards, and feel yourself float away with every song. The fact that this record can rank itself alongside the rest of their work speaks for itself. It really is that good.