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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