Slowdive has always been something of an anomaly, a misfit middle child between fellow shoegaze titans My Bloody Valentine and Ride. After defining the genre with their 1993 classic Souvlaki, the band took an unexpected detour into stripped down minimalism with Pygmalion before disbanding entirely and dipping their fingers into almost every other genre as Mojave 3. For 22 years, it seemed like the band and their discography were the result of a fever dream, existing like lightning in a bottle.
It is then a testament to Slowdive and the resonance of shoegaze itself that their fourth record feels like a seamless addition to their discography. The record is appropriately self-titled, as throughout the course of its nine tracks, the band have never sounded more like themselves, building on expectations while expanding what they as a band, along with the genre of shoegaze, are capable of. The eponymous album in many ways is an emotional and sonic successor to 1993’s seminal Souvlaki, beginning with the gorgeous, appropriately titled “Slomo.” Comforting guitars accompany an assured bassline, painting in wider strokes as the track seems to unravel in slow motion. Much like “Alison” that begins Souvlaki, “Slomo” is massive yet meticulous, grand yet precise. A proper introduction back into the world of shoegaze through the eyes of a band that helped to define it.
It would, however, be a disservice to the band and the new record to solely deem Slowdive as Souvlaki: Part Two. It’s a homecoming that bridges the distance between the band they once were and the musicians they’ve become. This time around, the vocals are more indistinct and porous, allowing for every sonic detail to be wildly palpable. Now more than ever when people seem to be making songs merely by pressing buttons, Slowdive have returned with a record where every single sound sounds extensively labored over. Tracks deviate from traditional structures, blooming, growing, taking off in unexpected directions like fireworks. “Star Roving” feels like a rush of blood to the head while “Don’t Know Why” gives you both the storm and subsequent solace. “Sugar for the Pill” is a soft burning daydream worthy of a slow dance and “No Longer Making Time” begins with forward marching drums before entirely splitting open into a wall of sound. Halstead, Goswell, and company have always been masters at embodying their emotions through their instruments, an ability that allow their music to sound sweeping yet feel entirely intimate. Such a skill has not been lost, but has only become more definitive over time. A common criticism of both Slowdive and shoegaze is that all the songs “sound the same” and are, therefore, “boring.” A remarkably talented band returning after two decades to deliver a record that’s equally rewarding as it is immense? Nothing “boring” about that at all.