Some Albums Hit You Like a Ton of Bricks – Others Wait Til You’re Ready

This morning I decided to revisit an album I’d honestly neglected when I’d first picked it up 15 years ago.  Slowdive’s Souvlaki is heralded as the quiet answer to My Bloody Valentine’s epically-loud shoegaze masterpiece, Loveless.  Released in 1993, it has remained to this day one of the definitive albums of its decade.

Slowdive - Souvlaki

The opening track, “Allison” is widely-acclaimed as the strongest selection of the album.  Straight away it sets the pace for the dreamy majesty that is to come.  The next two tracks – “Machine Gun” and “40 Days” begin with a sharp attack and relentless guitars and both tracks dissipate elegantly over powerfully-long 16-second fade outs, creating a wonderful sonic-staging of a band performing in the void of outer space.

Still, this isn’t a perfect album.  “Sing” is an attempt at a more freeform, atmospheric piece, but while Nick Chaplin’s bass maintains a simple, melodic structure, the rest of the band appears to disregard it.  The resulting instrumentation seems out-of-focus, and whether intentional or not, the lack of a tonal center takes away from the music.  “Here She Comes” had similar potential, but ends abruptly after only 2 minutes.  Neil Halstead closes the track speaking the title into silence, and you’re really left wishing there was more.

But other tracks like “Slowdive Space Station” return to the strength of the album’s start.  The song features a wash of heavily-reverberating guitar drones and indecipherable vocals that would make Elizabeth Fraser proud.  Rachel Goswell’s speech echoes from a distant star system and by the end of the piece the guitars have slowly decayed into beautiful noise reminding the listener why Souvlaki is one of the essential albums of the shoegaze/dream genre.

Slowdive

The remainder of the album is similarly trademark of the shoegaze scene.  All of the elements are there –  from the backmasked drums on “Melon Yellow” to the infinitely-sustained tones and delicate melodies of “Some Velvet Morning.”  This is a quintessential dream record.

And that’s one of the things I love most about music.  It doesn’t judge its listener for shelving an album for over a decade without ever giving it a fair chance. It simply waits there quietly to be rediscovered, knowing you’ll fall in love with it when you’re ready for its beauty.

Published in: on June 6, 2015 at 12:05 pm  Comments (1)  
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Hearkening Back to 4AD

This evening I found myself feeling emotionally and intellectually nostalgic for 1984-1994 ethereal wave / jangle-pop / neo-psychedelia / slowcore / art punk music which I’d only superficially explored in my college days.

This was music I emotionally-associate with the new-found independence and freedom (before the crushing reality of student loan debt sank in.)

As I’m never one to take on a task lightly, I charged full-speed to RYM, building custom charts of heroin-inspired jangle-pop and dreamy drone music of the late eighties and early nineties.

I consider these years sacred, before the industry latched on to the budding “alternative” rock scene and everything went to hell. These are the years before grunge hit full-swing, before megastars like Eddie Vedder, Chris Cornell, and Gavin Rossdale were featured every three songs on every commercial radio station in the US.

The free-form college rock scene was instead dominated by unlikely and reclusive rockers like J Spaceman and Elizabeth Fraser of Cocteau Twins.

Now armed with a roster of essential recordings, I’ll begin compiling the necessary albums for what will fill many evenings with the music from artists such as:

Spacemen 3
Spiritualized
Belly
Cocteau Twins
Curve
Galaxy 500
The Jesus & Mary Chain
Lush
Medicine
My Bloody Valentine
Sisters of Mercy
Slowdive
Sparklehorse
Suicide
The Church
Throwing Muses

…and a score of other essential artists of the dreamy early-alternative and pre-grunge scene.

I also count among these artists American Analog Set for their whisper-core indie music which came after the heyday of the shoegaze genre.

Spacemen 3 so adequately summarized the entire scene – “Taking Drugs To Make Music To Take Drugs To.”

spiritualized_3