Our pick of the week's best releases is the awe-inspiring return of shoegaze giants Slowdive
Slowdive are an anomaly. In a world of reunion tours and diminishing returns, they came back at their own pace and in their own time and were somehow bigger and better than ever before.
While so many peers tarnished their legacies as they went through the motions, it feels like Slowdive’s reputation has been righted by their return, some even nostalgic for what they dismissed first time around. All those critics who rubbished Souvlaki are now nudging their old reviews under the sofa while they gush over every reverb-drenched note. Hell, even rip-off merch sites are selling classic-looking Slowdive designs alongside Talking Heads and Nirvana shirts.
As if to prove that all this love was never the point, Slowdive responded to the adulation for their 2017 album Slowdive by going away again. Six years without new music, unsure themselves if they had any inclination to make another record. But they did. Boy, did they.
Their fifth album everything is alive lays the Reading, England band’s dreamy shoegaze textures over a bed of electronics, a sonic detour that Neil Halstead had intended for a solo record before bringing them to the band instead. The result is a record that feels like the band and the songs finding common ground. It’s lush yet sparse, ghostly yet warm, intimate yet spacious, a set of contradictions that push and pull each other into a transcendent shape.
From song to song, everything is alive plays with a sense of space, finding comfort in both distance and proximity. ‘shanty’ opens with synths like underwater heartbeats, jagged guitars and Halstead and Rachel Goswell’s voices swimming out of the darkness. The gorgeous instrumental ‘a prayer remembered’ withdraws from those immense depths, feeling womb-like in its gentle, enveloping thrum.
The sleek ‘alife’ seems to begin in a cavern before closing in as the band pick up and Halstead’s voice takes over from Goswell’s distant chant. ‘andalucia plays’ is as tenderly cinematic as the band have ever sounded, while the burbling chug of ‘Skin In The Game’ builds to a satisfying simmer, Halstead’s elusive vocals sounding like they’re being carried away in the steam.
Lead single ‘kisses’ is the most immediately Slowdive song of the eight. Like most of its companions, it nods towards the electronica of Halstead’s framework before the signature Slowdive dreaminess consumes it. Six of the eight songs on everything is alive were mixed by Shaun Everett, who brings the same smooth, warm electronic textures to the record that he brought to The War On Drugs’ I Don’t Live Here Anymore and The Killers’ Pressure Machine.
Not only have Slowdive resurrected themselves again and expanded their legacy, they’ve managed to grow as a band at the same time. Not only does everything is alive avoid re-treading old ground, it doesn’t even revisit the same territory as Slowdive. If Slowdive’s continued existence means trading long silences for masterpieces, the deal will still be weighted in our favour.