everything is alive by Slowdive

Release date: September 1, 2023
Label: Dead Oceans Records

It is hard to imagine a band that has been around for 33 years and is now releasing only their fifth full length. Slowdive is such a band, and while some genres come and go, their gorgeous brand of dream pop is still very much in vogue. The last self-titled release was a fine record, but everything is alive is better. Six years after that last record, vocalists and guitarists Rachel Goswell and Neil Halstead, guitarist Christian Savill, bassist Nick Chaplin, and drummer Simon Scott have gathered for an aural feast of silvery beauty.

Halstead started off with demos he worked on at home, and he originally thought they would produce a minimalist recording. But the band brought back the reverb and have achieved both their signature sound and some new sonic shadings that work well here. Studio sessions were supposed to start in April 2020 but were halted when the pandemic hit. They reconvened when they were able, and it started up a multi-year recording process whose location varied from Oxfordshire to Lincolnshire and finally back to Halstead’s studio in Cornwall. The record is dedicated to Goswell’s mother and Scott’s father, who both passed in 2020.

The long form ‘shanty’ is a perfect amalgamation of old and new in the group’s sound. It builds on the layers, but a straightforward melody keeps you invested. It is both elegant and elegiac and is capped off by the heavenly swish of Rachel Goswell’s voice. This is a group in its element, more popular than they were in their heyday, and they are bringing it! Just a wonderful track. ‘prayer remembered’ is solemn in the way that sacred music can be, only its feathery instrumental touches will buoy you up in bliss instead of weighing you down with grief. ‘alife’ is straightforward pop with both Neal and Rachel trading off vocal turns and could well be a hit. It is slightly trippy and bursting with melodic blooms. Great!

‘andalucia plays’ is a sleepy, ambient daydream, longer than what fits into a standard radio format, but who cares? Something as intimate and stirring as this tune can play on my personal station any time. Neil has a mesmerising vocal turn and the song is over before you know it. ‘kisses’ was the first single here and it’s possibly the best song in this song suite. It will ensnare you with its beauty, and the intermingled male and female voices are simply sublime. I have played this song more times than anything here, and more than any Slowdive song to boot! So take it from me, it’s a winner!

‘skin in the game’ follows on, more languorous than the other songs, and it’s like a lazy summer day on the riverbank offset by a cool breeze. ‘chained  to a cloud’ immediately reminds me of Beach House, most obviously because of the keyboard lines and symphonic backdrop. This one runs on to almost seven minutes, but you won’t mind. It is mostly instrumental, but you will hear muttered words in the thick haze of this one. Psychedelic, but not inclined to travel the excesses of that genre, it keeps things spare even as it unfolds. ‘the slab’ crosses paths with prog and orchestral pop, and it a good one to wind things down to a slow trickle before fading to black.

A great, somewhat different new release from these dream pop/shoegaze stalwarts, and one I can recommend highly.

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