Adrian Cooper has been unwell

Old reviews that are no longer available online, or from sites that no longer exist. The pen is dead, long live the camera.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Catch the Breeze

Is a cliché still a cliché if it happens to be true? Similarly, do clichéd descriptions remain clichés when they are the most appropriate way to describe how a particular band sounds? Is it possible to talk about a Slowdive – shoegazers to a (wo)man – compilation which brings together highlights from their entire back catalogue, without using words such as transcendental (cliché #1), or celestial (cliché #2)?

Part of the then infamous scene that celebrates itself, Slowdive stumbled out of the Thames Valley area at the start of the ‘90s to make beautiful music laden with soaring (cliché #3) guitars and lots and lots of effects pedals. The likes of the eponymously titled ‘Slowdive’ and ‘Catch The Breeze’ do a pretty good job of setting out the initial Slowdive blueprint, hovering as they do around the point of equilibrium between the squally feedback (cliché #4) of Ride, and Lush’s ethereal (cliché #5) wall of sound (cliché #6), topped off with Rachel Goswell dislocated, elfin vocals. Elsewhere, their cover of Syd Barrett’s ‘Golden Hair’, from the ‘Holding Our Breath’ EP, takes the concept of building sonic cathedrals (cliché #7) to extremes, managing to sound as if there was got a whole chapter of Franciscan monks locked away with them in the recording studio.

After their early EPs and first album, ‘Just For A Day’, Slowdive began to refine that blueprint, and 1993’s ‘Outside Your Room’ EP and ‘Souvlaki’ album, which included the Brian Eno collaboration ‘Sing’, signalled a move away from volume and towards a gentler, more ambient sound.

By the time that the ‘Pygmalion’ album was released in 1995, Slowdive barely resembled any of the bands that had been considered their peers five years earlier. The percussion had been stripped right back to a series of minimal beats that were overlaid with sparse notes and spacerock drones. This change left Slowdive having more in common with Seefeel and other bands mining the seam between guitar music and electronica than with the likes of My Bloody Valentine or the Pale Saints.

Since the demise of Creation Records, much of the Slowdive back catalogue has been unavailable. ‘Catch The Breeze’ is the first step towards rectifying that, and should allow a new generation of effects pedal geeks to learn to celebrate the scene that celebrated itself.

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