Dec 8, 2013

Sundaze 1349

Hello,  well after hurricane-force winds disrupted transport and power supplies in Scotland and threatened coastal flooding in England as they closed on northern Europe in what meteorologists said could be one of the most powerful storms to hit the continent in years. I wonder where it came from, i thought these things developed over warm water but this one came from the north. Hmm. After the 1953 disaster this time the lowlands were largely prepared and save from some deadly accidents with trees falling on cars and the odd truck getting blown over the damage was limited. Our hi-tech society saved the day.

Today's artists formed when they were mostly in their teens, initially lumped in with the remainder of the early-'90s British shoegaze scene; the band's later releases extended upon the likes of the Cocteau Twins and the more atmospheric sides of post-punk, and they closed out their career with an excellent and misunderstood ambient album. Everything here to ..... N'Joy

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The band formed in Reading in 1989, and primarily consisted of Nick Chaplin (bass), Rachel Goswell (vocals, guitar), Neil Halstead (vocals, guitar), and Christian Savill (guitar). Several drummers played with the band, including Ian McCutcheon, Adrian Sell, and most notably Simon Scott who drummed on the first and second albums. Halstead was the band's primary songwriter. Scott left in 1994 and when Savill and Chaplin left the band after the release of Pygmalion, the remaining members renamed the band Mojave 3.

Slowdive was formed in Reading by Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell in October 1989. The two sang and played guitar, and had been friends since they were six years old. At a Sunday youth group, they began making music in an indie pop band called The Pumpkin Fairies, with bassist Mike Cottle and drummer Adrian Sell. When the Fairies disbanded, Slowdive formed with drummer Adrian Sell, and Nick Chaplin, his friend who played bass. A third guitarist named Christian Savill, previously of the band "Eternal", joined when he became the only person to answer an advert from the band. The ad called for a female guitarist, but Savill wanted to join so badly he offered to wear a dress. He was subsequently recruited. The name "Slowdive" was inspired by a dream Nick Chaplin experienced.

Signing with Creation, Slowdive's early singles received glowing press and chart placement. Their debut single, Slowdive, thinly veiled an indebtedness to the Byrds and My Bloody Valentine, with no traceable punk influence. (In fact, they were probably amongst the first batch of young rock bands to ignore the movement.) Just after Slowdive's recording, Sell left for university. Neil Carter subbed for less than a year, lending his skills to the follow-up single, Morningrise; former Charlottes member Simon Scott hopped on board prior to the band's third single, Holding Our Breath. The sleepy escapist psychedelia of both Morningrise and Holding Our Breath made significant impressions on the British indie chart.

The press dubbed them part of "The Scene That Celebrates Itself" -- a small, loose, conglomerate of like-minded bands who could be seen at each other's shows, frequently hanging out together within the same circle. This "scene" included Lush, Moose, Swervedriver, Curve, and Blur. Not associating with themselves as a move of self-importance, grandstanding, or high society, it was merely a means for those involved to get into shows for free. Most of those involved were university dropouts on the dole. A dastardly move by the press, the tag just made it easier for them to lasso a group of bands into the to-be-expected derision. With the Brit-pop trend close behind, they could cast aside their champs of yesterday with one fell swoop.

Slowdive's debut album, Just for a Day, was released in September of 1991. Though it placed in the Top Ten of the indie chart, the press backlash was beginning to surface -- shoegaze was beginning to fall out of favor, and when bands put out a full-length, it's typically an ideal time for the British press to decide you're no good. Regardless, it was a fine debut. Months later, the Blue Day compilation appeared on the racks. It combined the bands first three singles, leaving off their version of Syd Barrett's "Golden Hair" and the instrumental version of "Avalyn."

A tour of the United Kingdom followed in fall 1991. Afterward, the group made their first visit to the United States and toured with alternative rock band Blur. A tour of Europe followed in February 1992. While they toured in early 1992, the band began writing songs for a follow-up album, but the negative coverage Slowdive received in the press affected their songwriting. "[It] did affect us as we were all teenagers at the time," said Scott in a 2009 interview, "[We] couldn't understand why people were so outraged by our sound that they had to tell the NME or whoever that they wanted us dead!"

When the band returned to the UK, they wrote a letter to ambient visionary Brian Eno and requested he produce their second album. Eno responded and told them he liked their music, but wanted to collaborate not produce. Two songs from the collaboration arrived on the ensuing album: "Sing", which was co-written with Eno, and "Here She Comes" where Eno played keyboards. The band's sound tightened for Souvlaki (named from a favorite Jerky Boys skit), released in mid-1993. (Initial copies included Blue Day as a second disc.) With assistance from Brian Eno on a couple tracks and an excellent mixing job from Ed Buller, it was a marked improvement from their earlier material. It wandered less, but didn't sacrifice their sense of woozy atmosphere for it.

Troubles with U.S. label SBK prevented Souvlaki from being released anywhere near it's U.K. street date and U.S. dates with Catherine Wheel that had been intended to promote Souvlaki proved to be another incident of bad timing; at that point, they were playing in a country where their record wouldn't be available for months. Souvlaki was finally released eight full months later in the U.S.  By this time, Scott had amicably parted, leaving to cater to his jazz instincts in Foxy Brown. (He would later join Inner Sleeve.) Ex-Mermaid Ian McCutcheon signed on.

SBK had been shafting Slowdive from the get-go. Their marketing scheme for Souvlaki will undoubtedly go down in industry history as one of the laziest ever. The band's mailing list was sent a flyer announcing the release date. Botching numerous U.S. tours and decimating the itineraries at Spinal Tap-like levels, the gaffes culminated with SBK pulling financial support from of a Souvlaki support tour. Determined to not screw their U.S. fans over, they funded a two week tour on their own. The band sold a live tape to help pay their way and also put together a tour program that included a blurb about their beloved American label. Despite poor exposure in the States, the band had cultivated a sizeable following through word of mouth and short tours with the aforementioned and Ride.

The band's third and final studio outing was released in 1995. Pygmalion was essentially a solo ambient record by Halstead; the only detectable contributions were courtesy of Goswell's vocals and occasional patterns from McCutcheon. Within a couple weeks of release, Creation dropped the band. SBK had since given them the boot as well, but their U.K. label had been expecting a song-based affair. Slowdive had clearly turned into something separate from what they had been signed as. Taken further than the intelligent techno slant of the 5 EP, the record was often beatless. Unhappy with this shift, Chaplin and Savill left during the recording.

Shortly after being dropped by Creation, Halstead, Goswell and McCutcheon recorded an album of country-influenced songs, and were signed to label 4AD, changing the band name to Mojave 3 to reflect the new musical direction. The group released 4 albums, they are currently on hiatus, partly on account of Goswell developping a severe tinnitus after a virus infection in 2006 then in 2010 she gave birth to a severely disabled child.

Scott joined Lowgold in 1999 and later went on to release solo records with 12k, Miasmah, Sonic Pieces, Kompakt and co-write and perform with Ghostly International signed Seattle band The Sight Below. Savill went on to form Monster Movie, a dream pop group that has maintained much of the older Slowdive style. They have released four albums and an EP to date.

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Slowdive were both the first and last word on this particular form of guitar-pop dreaming. It's the same sense you can get from Galaxie 500, Mazzy Star, My Bloody Valentine, or the Cocteau Twins, four bands with whom Slowdive have plenty in common. Just for a Day is Slowdive's first album, and it shows; when one listens to the magnificent sound of Souvlaki or the brilliant experimentation of Pygmalion, it becomes clear that Just for a Day was only a step toward the greatness they would later achieve. Its sound is quite like Souvlaki's -- swelling waves of flanged guitars, layers of wispy vocals floating in and out of the mix, and sweet lazy pop songs -- but the production sometimes turns the band's plush, sweet sound into the sort of cheap and cheesy pleasantness one might expect from a new age artist. A few tracks hint at the sound that would be fully achieved on Souvlaki ("Celia's Dream," "Erik's Song"), and the album as a whole must have sounded wonderful before anyone knew what great things the band was capable of -- but Just for a Day is really Slowdive in their infancy.

Slowdive - Just For A Day (flac  286mb)

01 Spanish Air 6:02
02 Celia's Dream 4:09
03 Catch The Breeze 4:19
04 Ballad Of Sister Sue 4:31
05 Erik's Song 4:25
06 Waves 5:51
07 Brighter 3:48
08 The Sadman 4:44
09 Primal 5:30


Slowdive - Just For A Day bonus (flac  390mb)

01 Slowdive 5:16
02 Avalyn 1 4:51
03 Avalyn 2 8:09
04 Morningrise 4:20
05 She Calls 5:37
06 Losing Today 5:00
07 Golden Hair 4:03
08 Shine 5:23
09 Albatross 5:17
Peel Session 21/4/91
10 Catch The Breeze 4:10
11 Shine 5:20
12 Golden Hair 3:45

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For someone who wasn't around when Slowdive first started releasing music,  "Souvlaki" is a fantastic all-around package with a thoughtful remaster and a smattering of b-sides and remixes. With such a careful remaster of "Souvlaki", it isn't difficult to hear how timeless their music was. Even as collaborator Brian Eno led this album off into a few dub-deep explorations, Halstead's pop songwriting hit a peak, and the album's tracks wound up good-as-"Alison" almost straight across. (Same goes for the cover of "Some Velvet Morning" on the bonus disc-- just Slowdive putting the swirl on someone else's dreamy, narcotic country songwriting.) It's a slightly different scenario for the band's first album, 1991's Just for a Day, which the anthology ignored in favor of the early singles and radio sessions that now stock its bonus disc. Not so surprising: It's a straight line from those singles and EPs to the sound of Souvlaki, whereas Just for a Day is more of a sweet-dream detour. It was in 1991 that the NME said Slowdive could "make Cocteau Twins resemble Mudhoney," and the fluffy sprawl of this record seems to be trying to prove them right.

Though not as big and swirling as Just for a Day, there's more of an attempt to put advanced song structure and melody in place rather than just craft infinitely appealing, occasionally thunderous mood music. Everything is simplified, as if Brian Eno's presence on two songs -- he contributes keyboards and treatments and co-wrote one tune after turning down the band's invitation to produce -- hammered home the better aspects of "ambient" music. This is no Music for Airports though. On the opening "Alison," the largely uplifting "When the Sun Hits," and the darkly blissful "Machine Gun," Slowdive are still capable of mouth-opening, spine-tingling flourishes. They've found a way to be quiet, moving, and aggressive simultaneously, mixing trance-like beauty with the deepest delayed guitar sounds around, a sound at once relaxing, soothing, and exciting, and most of all harshly beautiful.

Slowdive - Souvlaki (flac, 89 min  558mb)

01 Alison 3:51
02 Machine Gun 4:27
03 Days 3:14
04 Sing 4:48
05 Here She Comes 2:17
06 Souvlaki Space Station 5:57
07 When The Sun Hits 4:46
08 Altogether 3:41
09 Melon Yellow 3:52
10 Dagger 3:33
 Bonus Tracks
11 Some Velvet Morning 3:22
Outside Your Room 1994 Single B Sides
12 So Tired 4:02
13 Moussaka Chaos 6:23
14 In Mind 3:44
 5 EP Single B Sides
15 Good Day Sunshine 5:06
16 Missing You 4:15
17 Country Rain 3:33
 5 EP (In Mind Remixes)
18 In Mind (Bandulu Mix) 8:04
19 In Mind (Reload Mix) 10:26

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Pygmalion is the most abstract of Slowdive's albums; after moving from the sugary pop of Just for a Day to the more mature and more experimental Souvlaki, the band began to incorporate even more elements of ambient electronica -- drum loops, samples, and songs even less tangible than on previous releases. Thus a Slowdive album in name only: With this record, Halstead pushed the rest of the band to the sidelines, dropped the notion of a "band" altogether, and recorded at least two tracks that I can't imagine being rivaled-- pure ambient pop dreams. There seem to be two prevailing opinions of the album, among Slowdive fans: either (a) it's disappointingly "out there," since it doesn't work with the conventional pop underlying the sounds of Souvlaki, or (b) it's absolutely brilliant, taking their sound into the realms it was always destined to go. The second opinion seems a little more reasonable; tracks like "Blue Skied an' Clear" and "Crazy for You" demonstrate that the songs are still in there, somewhere -- they're just buried under more abstract sounds than before. The album is not for those seeking a direct and solid song under the surface -- but for anyone who appreciates the indirect and intangible, it's a stylistic masterpiece.

Slowdive - Pygmalion (flac 262mb)

01 Rutti 10:05
02 Crazy For You 6:01
03 Miranda 4:49
04 Trellisaze 6:22
05 Cello 1:42
06 J's Heaven 6:47
07 Visions Of La 1:48
08 Blue Skied An' Clear 6:54
09 All Of Us 4:07

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concorde said...

Brilliant! Thanks for this great post. Never heard of this band before but I love them. Checked them out online & it looks like there was an extended edition of Pygmalion; any chance you have that? Cheers & thanks for this great music anyway...

Rho said...

Thanks Concorde glad you you enjoyed the acquaintance with Slowdive as for Pygmalion, alas that is the 2010 rerelease that comes with a bonus disc with demo's I don't have it and its unlikely i ever will.


Anonymous said...

Hi Rho

Is it possible to re-up all three Slowdive albums?

Many thanks


Charles said...

Thanks a lot for this. My copy of Souvlaki doesn't have half these tracks. It;s very much appreciated!

Anonymous said...

any chance you can re-up Souvlaki?

Rho said...

As you can see above i re-uped this page 7 months ago, therefor within my 12 months cap, sorry Anon

Anonymous said...

Could you please consider reupping?

Paul.C. said...

Nice one Rho.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for the reup.

Anonymous said...

I know it's less than 12 months, so putting in a re-up request for when those 12 months expire. Thanks for considering!

Walt Reneker said...

A reup of the Slowdive would be awesome!

Anonymous said...

Hi Rho, I believe 12 months have gone by and this now qualifies for a re-up request! A re-up of Slowdive would be much appreciated. Thanks for all the good work.

Anonymous said...

Just a little message to thank you about this post which allowed me to discover Slowdive. I was very impressed by Souvlaki and even more by their recent eponymous opus.
Apparently, at the time, I was in another trip, and missed all this.

Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Hello Rho, Hopefully you'll be able to fulfil this re-up request for all of the excellent Slowdive you have you have highlighted in this post.