The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'slowdive'
Tonight, I went to Hoxton Bar and Kitchen, for a gig celebrating the tenth birthday of local shoegaze night/label Sonic Cathedral (who formed a few months before I moved to the UK). The lineup consisted of Mark Gardiner (of Ride), Ulrich Schnauss and a mystery headliner. It was rumoured, and soon after that a pretty much open secret, who the headliner was: the gig was one night before the publicly announced (and quickly sold out) Slowdive show at the much larger Village Underground, and word started getting around that the returning shoegaze legends would be playing a warm-up gig the night before. The rumours turned out to be true, and the resulting gig even better than already high expectations.
Mark Gardiner played first; it was just him with a 12-string acoustic guitar and loop pedal, playing a few Ride songs and some more recent material. He got an enthusiastic reception. Afterward, the lights went down and Ulrich Schnauss and another musician took to the stage, controlling a table of synthesisers and mixers, accompanied by video projections of crystals, nighttime journeys, modern architecture and very large machinery in motion. Schnauss played some new material from an upcoming album, and this material seems to have a more electronic sound, for want of a better word.
Finally, after a few roadies placed the boards of guitar pedals on the stage, Slowdive went on, and started their set with their eponymous song, which was followed up Avalyn. Most of the set was comprised of songs from their EPs and Souvlaki, with one track (Catch The Breeze) from their debut album and two (Blue Skied An' Clear and Crazy For You) from Pygmalion. Their take on Crazy For You was one of the big surprises of the set; the original is a languid, evanescent number, drifting in and out as if made of gossamer. Their live version was a faster and more intense version, propelled by waves of processed guitars and driving percussion. It was, in a sense, as if Souvlaki-era Slowdive were playing a cover of Pygmalion-era Slowdive and adding their own interpretation to it. (And, in a sense, they were; Pygmalion was, in some ways, a work in progress; the band were fatally dropped by their label before they could play it live. Now, two decades on, they've seamlessly picked up where they left off.)
The other surprise was their cover of Syd Barrett's Golden Hair, which they had never played live. Their rendition developed on the version they recorded but was considerably richer, seeming to build on where the bands that have come along in the two decades since (such as Mogwai, iLiKETRAiNS and Explosions In The Sky, to name three) have taken the loosely defined genre; the dynamics seemed that much more glorious.
Slowdive were impressive. Not just impressive in the sense of competently playing some old favourites and hitting that sweet spot of nostalgia (though the show certainly did achieve that), or good for a band who reformed after some 19 years, but impressive by the standards one might judge any band. If one didn't know that this was their first gig since 1995, one would never have guessed; there was a freshness and vitality to the performance. (As one who spent much of 1998 or so listening to Souvlaki on repeat and then scouring the internet for MP3s of out-of-print early EPs (then deleted and generally disdained, not fitting into the grunge/Britpop narrative), I of course cannot hear Slowdive with the ears of one unfamiliar with their work, but can speculate that my younger self, from the moment before he heard their recordings, would have been blown away.) In any case, this will undoubtedly rank highly in my gigs of 2014.
It's official: Slowdive are reuniting. Their first announced gig will be at Primavera in Barcelona, though in an interview with The Quietus, Neil Halstead said that the original plan was to record some new material, with the gigs funding the recording.
Certainly, if one looked closely enough, one could spot hints of Halstead's former hard line against a Slowdive reunion softening, from conciliatory remarks in more recent interviews to last year's not at all folksy Black Hearted Brother album.
WIRED talks to Neil Halstead about the recent resurgence of interest in shoegazer, and it appears that he's still not keen to be part of it:
Halstead: No, there are no plans to get Slowdive back together. We had a lot of pedals, a lot of love and some good grass. When the love ran out, we sold the grass and smoked the pedals.The article also mentions an upcoming documentary on shoegazer titled Beautiful Noise, whose production company's page is here, though contains nothing other than a rather apposite-looking graphic.
MP3Hugger has a roundup of what happened to the various members of Slowdive after the band broke up, along with MP3s from their various projects. It seems that their bass player, Nick Chaplin, has disappeared without a trace, while the other ex-members are continuing various projects.
Also via No Rock&Roll Fun, the Bluffer's Guide to Sophisti-pop. Everything you need to know about a genre of ultra-smooth, aspirational Thatcherite synth-jazz-pop, spawned from the New Pop begotten by post-punk/new-wave, that flourished in the mid-1980s, and is nonetheless a whole lot less aurally offensive than most things labelled "smooth jazz". And here is an article about sophisti-pop and what fits into it.
According to this page, Slowdive's three albums are about to be rereleased in remastered form. Just For A Day and Souvlaki come with bonus discs, containing EP tracks and, in the latter case, bonus tracks from the US edition. Their last album, the glorious Pygmalion is a single disc with no extras, though it's good to see it see the light of day again.
It would have been nice to see some of Slowdive's unreleased demo/outtake tracks (such as the "Souvlaki Demos" and "Pygmalion Demos" that have been floating around; the latter show an electronic sparseness that prefigured the likes of M83 and Ulrich Schnauss), though I'm not complaining. Also, given the fact that it's on Castle and not Sony (who owns the back-catalogue), chances are it won't evil your computer.
The top 100 indiepop albums, according to an Italian website. The descriptions are in Italian, though the choices look mostly quite sound. The top 3 are C86, one of the Sarah Records compilations and Belle & Sebastian's If You're Feeling Sinister, which sets the tone and gives an idea of the aesthetic involved. The rest doesn't disappoint: The Jesus and Mary Chain's Psychocandy is #11, #13 and #14 are Orange Juice and The Pastels, Japanese pop band 800 Cherries have #21, The Hummingbirds' loveBuzz takes #55 (and I didn't think anyone outside of Australia had heard of them; perhaps the next one of these that comes out will name-check Clag or Mid-State Orange), meanwhile Lush's Split has #67, Slowdive get #89 (along with what looks like an arch comment about the decline and fall of Creation), and The Radio Dept.'s Lesser Matters comes in at #83.
I went to see Mysterious Skin tonight. It's a recent American art-house film about two boys who had been sexually molested by a baseball coach in a small town; ten years on, one boy is a somewhat callous, promiscuous gay hustler (who looks a bit like a hipster Mr. Spock), while the other blocked out details of the experience, believing instead that he had been abducted by aliens, and is trying to figure out what really happened during those lost hours.
The posters on the Tube advertised it as "slinky-hipped and sleazy-poetic", which makes it sound like the next album from The Killers or something, though the impression is misleading; this is a thoughtful and often beautifully shot film, at times explicit and harrowing, though not gratuitously so. The soundtrack really added to it; it was by Robin Guthrie (from the Cocteau Twins) and Harold Budd, and also featured songs by Slowdive, Curve and Sigur Rós, and not an overhyped NME New Wave Revival band in earshot.
I wonder whether there was any connection between the Slowdive songs in the soundtrack and the other UFO contactee being named Avalyn.
The shoegazer movement may have died out in the mid-1990s in most places, but in London, it's alive and well every month at Club AC30. Your Humble Narrator went along to this month's one.
Club AC30 is held at a pub named The Water Rats (presumably after the Australian police soap; I heard that the Poms love Australian TV, but didn't think they'd take it quite this far), not far from King's Cross, and features bands and a DJ.
First up was a Clairecords shoegazer outfit named Air Formation; they took to the stage and proceeded to make a wall of noise not unlike My Bloody Valentine or someone. The sound in the venue, or possibly the mixing, wasn't the best, though, so at times it was hard to tell whether, in fact, the keyboard (a Yamaha CS-1X) was plugged in. Anyway, they were quite good, though I'm not sure if I'll get their CD.
Next up was a Swedish band named Douglas Heart (not to be confused with Douglas Hart, formerly of the Jesus and Mary Chain). They were basically minor-key pop with some shoegazing elements; two guitarists, a bass player, a drummer, a Roland D-50 keyboard (wasn't that the one all the gothic-rock bands used in the 1980s or something?), and a female vocalist, who also played melodica and trumpet. Except that the microphones didn't seem to work very well, and half of the time the audience couldn't hear her. Anyway, they sounded a bit like the Cranes or the Sundays or someone; most of their set didn't grab me, but the last song (a stomping number with a great big fuzzy monster bass line) changed my mind.
The third act was Rachel Goswell, someone who gets invited to these things largely on the strength of what she was doing 10 years ago. Her act these days is basically acoustic-guitar folk, much of the sort you could find at any acoustic open-mike night in Fitzroy. For some of the songs of this gig, she had a band with guitar and bass, though her set still contained no shoegazing action whatsoever. She does, though, have a lovely voice. The audience hushed respectfully as she came on (shushing those still talking amongst them), applauded after each song, and called for an encore, which she obliged them with.
Between sets, Ulrich Schnauss DJed, playing a lot of ambient tracks, ranging from shoegazer to electronica; there were some really nice tracks in the mix he played.
Last night, I went to the ICA to see a performance by Rachel Goswell, who was doing a support set for the Cranes. She did pretty much the acoustic guitar-folk singer-songwriter thing, accompanied by a bloke with a guitar. Rachel started off singing as her accompanist played guitar, and later ended up picking up a guitar (and, towards the end, a small squeezebox). A few songs into the set, one fan called out requesting Catch The Breeze, which Rachel politely declined, saying that it was 12 years too late for that.
Anyway, it was pleasant enough (Rachel, as Slowdive fans will know, has a lovely voice, and the guitar parts were quite good too), though I couldn't help but think that it would have benefitted from a few more layers; perhaps some strings or even some low-key electronics.
I caught a few songs by the Cranes (by when the albedo of the crowd had darkened considerably); they were basically a goth take on early-90s shoegazer, much as I remembered. And the vocalist sounds as if her voice was being played back at slightly too high a speed.
A tribute to Slowdive, from a Spanish (?) MP3 label. Confusingly enough, it's called "Blue skyed and clear", which is very close to the Morr Music glitchtronica Slowdive tribute. This one's mostly in a shoegazer vein, though, with bits of glitchy post-shoegaze electronica here and there amidst the processed guitar textures, and some of the tracks are quite good. Pity about the 128kbps MP3s.
It looks like there's a new Slowdive CD release coming out on the 24th; titled Catch the Breeze it's presumably a best-of/retrospective, though details are scant. Oddly enough, it's not being released by Sony but by some outfit named Castle.
I should really read Largehearted Boy more often; he has recently posted a number of links to MP3s online, including a trove of tracks from Slowdive EPs (at 128kbps, though). These are really good; if you haven't heard them, go and download.
Also via LHB, Luis Buñuel's Un Chien Andalou, in a MPEG file. If you were wondering what exactly The Pixies' Debaser was about, that's it.
Slowdive music videos online in MPEG format. It's funny to think that back in the early 90s stuff like Slowdive got played on MTV (can you imagine MTV squeezing in a Mogwai video or somesuch between Jay-Z and Jackass these days?) The visuals go quite nicely with the music, too. And wasn't Rachel pretty?
(): may cause drowsiness, nausea, and in some rare cases serious complications with the liver have been reported. Side effects similar to that of Vespertine. Do not take () if you are currently taking Slowdive. Ask your doctor if () is right for you.
Heh. Speaking of which, there should be a bit of Slowdive and the like in my DJ set next week; quite possibly a few of the rarities will get spun. Watch this space for details.
A piece about Neil Halstead's gig tomorrow night. The rumours of him playing material from all seven albums of his career (which would include the 3 Slowdive albums) certainly sound exciting. Hope it's not just Dagger (the only Slowdive song Mojave 3 do live). (ta, Cos)
Just heard this on Far And Wide: Neil Halstead is coming to Melbourne, and playing a gig at the Evelyn in early December. I'll probably go to see that, even though it's infinitesimally unlikely to go into the sort of luscious, immersive wall of noise that was Slowdive, instead staying firmly in AM-radio easy-listening territory.
Oh yes, I got Blue Skied An' Clear (the Slowdive tribute CD) in the mail today. I've only listened to part of the first disc so far, and it has its highs and lows. It's rather German and laptoppish and minimal in places, which sometimes works and sometimes not. (As you can imagine, the Pygmalion covers work better than the wall-of-noise shoegazing ones, especially with guessed lyrics sung in high, thickly-accented voices. Manual's cover of Blue Skied An' Clear is particularly nice.)
(And nice to know that the Ulrich Schnauss' approach to Crazy For You is quite different from the one I've been working on for a year or so too...)
German laptop/glitch record label Morr Music have released a Slowdive tribute compilation. Titled Blue Skied An' Clear, the first disc contains covers by the likes of Múm, Manual, Isan and a number of other artists of that stripe. The songs covered include the obvious choices (from Just For A Day and Souvlaki) as well as parts of Slowdive's now-deleted minimalist masterpiece Pygmalion (the title track and Crazy For You are listed). Disc 2 is apparently all original compositions in a similar direction; not too sure about that, but it may be interesting. More information is on the darla.com new releases page. (via the Avalyn mailing list)
More from the Rachel Goswell interview:
RG: Slowdive I look back with pleasure and pain really. The first couple of years was really exciting. And I was a teenager turning into my 20's. I had a lot of experiences I will never forget! Neil and I broke up around the recording of 'Souvlaki' and it was extremely difficult maintaining a working relationship. there was alot of anger and tears. I would say it wasn't really til we started on Mojave that we really broke free of each other completely, personally. Mojave 3 has been alot easier, far more relaxed and by mid twenties you're kind of more sussed about life (though not as much as when you hit 30, lol).
I didn't know that. After this, I'll probably listen to Souvlaki (and, to a lesser extent, Pygmalion) somewhat differently; in particular, just how personal songs like Dagger really are. Though, OTOH, Pygmalion always did have a sense of transcendence-through-abstraction, at least to me.
Favourite long-defunct indie bands: It seems to be a bumper time for interviews with ex-Slowdive personnel. recordcamp.com has one with Rachel (now of Mojave 3), where she talks about how she and Neil started jamming in high school, their change of sound, and so on: (via the Avalyn list again)
RG: Pygmalion was released a year after we had recorded it. During that year Neil had moved on musically to doing different things. Had we not been dropped 'Ask Me Tomorrow' would have been the fourth slowdive album. With 'pygmalion' we had experimented with sounds as much as we had wanted to and just wanted to do more 'traditional' tunes and strip everything down.
(I still think that they threw the baby out with the bathwater, but that's just my taste. Maybe one of these days I'll Grow Up, get into Mojave 3, and start frequenting the Country'n'Preston gigs that dot the inner city of Melbourne; or maybe not.)
Anyway, the interview may be found here if the link works; if not, it's also on their main page (a few columns across).
An interesting interview with Christian Saville, former guitarist from Slowdive (and, mercifully, not involved in any sort of alt-country/early-70s-AM-radio-easy-listening act), talking about the rise and fall of Slowdive, the crap state of popular music today, those unreleased Slowdive demos floating around, and his new band, Monster Movie (which is probably more interesting than Mojave 3 anyway). (via the Avalyn list)
The funniest thing I saw recently was on Travis' website, the very first screen you see has photos of their Brit Awards on. That sums the "big" UK bands up. It is revolting. The music is way down the list of priorities for these guys. I don't have a problem with bands getting famous, but some of the bands from Britain right now seem content to be as ordinary, unadventurous, and inoffensive as possible. As for the mercury prize, I don't understand it - it seems like its only function is for Record Company execs to try to seem like they are trendy and for irratating bands to mouth off about how innovative they are for bothering to do an album once every 2 or 3 years. Any award that can list previous winners as M People is totally worthless. I don't want to sound like a moaning bastard, there is plenty going on that I really like. The internet is great for hearing bands. I guess the thing is you have to look a little harder for the interesting things than you did perhaps 10 years ago. I really love 'Yo La Tengo', and 'Stereolab' and they are still around.
Yes. Too bad those RIAA fuckers have been determinedly shutting down all possible sources of interesting music on the Internet (from AudioGalaxy to web radio), one by one.
3RRR just played Dandelion Wine's cover of Slowdive's Melon Yellow. Very nice. I like the new electronic-beats-and-dulcimer format.
This afternoon, I got a message from Cos, saying that he picked up the new Neil Halstead album at Second Spin in Balaclava. So I caught a tram and a train down there, and picked up a copy, as well as second-hand copies of:
- Ivy, Apartment Life (which I had had my eye on for a while)
- Lush, Gala (the early EP compilation; now I've got everything Lush ever released, save for some obscure remixes*).
Being on a tight budget, I didn't pick up everything I found there; I didn't get The Sundays' Reading, Writing and Arithmetic (which didn't sound too bad, in a slightly Cocteau Twins-ish sort of way), the last Mojave 3 album, an album by Bandulu (who did a good remix of Slowdive's In Mind, though their own work sounded like fairly standard dub/electronica), or Ryuichi Sakamoto's 1996 compilation.
* such as the DJ Spooky mix of Undertow, which I'd love to get my hands on.