giovedì 7 settembre 2023

My Review: Slowdive - everything is alive

Slowdive - everything is alive

He escaped from the labyrinth of reality and ended up under the wheel of dreams!

(Mikhail Kuzmin)

A labyrinth, a woman in the centre, her face indecipherable, pastel colours make the image a path to start, imagining that music can make the steps move and lead them to the exit.

The five seagulls of Reading return, hungry for life but generous in dropping food for our souls from the heights of their majestic flights: we are left open-mouthed and our eyes dipped in a liquid dream. Able to disinfect their artistic sense from the corsair traps always ready to cage talent, Slowdive do the most complete job of their long artistic journey, generating fresh air in the engines of their compositions, deciding to build everything with imposing references to human history, with images that seem to come from faraway places and times. They definitively enter into the Post-Rock spirit, into electronics imbued with a soft propensity for enchantment, to anaesthetise the usual will towards a possibility in generating noise, and the ability to further refine a writing that knows different ways to connect with the inevitability of death. Two bereavements have occurred in recent years for those band members who have transported their grief towards contemplation and serenity.

Have you ever dreamed of entering a rainbow? Here, you already know about its short existence, its fate with a quick expiration date.

This is what the five seagulls from Reading do: they offer us a single date with that destabilising feeling that beyond their music there are no boundaries to touch. Touching, reassuring, disarming, the latest work lives on details like hairpins of thoughts in a shining agglomerate, intent on probing our feelings with a regal detachment. It's not shoegaze, it's not Dreampop, it's a concept album about beauty devoid of rhetoric, a refinery that sets feelings on fire with silk, taking the flight of an uncommon feeling around the skies of a world that, if it ignores its own ignorance, can feed on it: if eternity is what man seeks, here it is, in the earthly dimension, ready to be stabilised in the lane of joy. Think of the title: a fact, a statement devoid of drama or light, where good and evil remain alive. Nothing changes, except the desire to set reality to music in the organic beam of a dreamlike platform that favours slowness, without however losing the innate Pop approach that makes this musical group the only meteor that never leaves...

They take years to come back, they do it this way, and you know, we are human beings drained of inclinations to depth, we can't help but be confused at this display of class that tends to increasingly illuminate their careers and our needs. The pandemic has slowed down the schizophrenic impulse of all nature, including our own, of increasingly lost and scattered people. At that time, Master Neil thought he was directing his compositions towards a pure electronic form. Once delivered, those forms were kneaded by the other four, and here is the result: the labyrinth of the cover probes every form to break free from stagnation, including musical stagnation, to give birth to an investigation that from emotional reaches the spiritual level, like a calm dance to make us feel the softness of our hips. Not a laboratory, a studio, a rehearsal room, but a flight of intertwined souls a few steps from the centre of gravity of the universe: never has their Reading been so close to becoming the capital of our hungry ambitions. Measured in their effects, simple in their rhythms, each track knows no continuous evolution but a simple, tiny and yet damn effective pattern.

And it is this component that will lead many Slowdive 'followers' to lament, to feel betrayed by this work that clearly seems to contain beautiful crumbs of their artistic journey, but with a clear need to peruse other forms of life.

Generous is the propensity to surround the chords with electronic carpets that allow Simon Scott to vibrate with his drumming in the enchantment of a golden-walled funnel. The two guitars (Neil Halstead and Christian Savill) are a goniometer that imprison every bewilderment to free them, having been gifted their grace. Never swaggering, never overbearing, never touchy, the two six-stringers are pure vitamin, capable of entering into psychedelia as well as the less pregnant Space-Rock, and searching for energies for the right amount of time with alchemies close to the Alan Parson Project, as well as Can and Kraftwerk, for a truly remarkable temporal and geographical tour.

Mr. Nick Chaplin is simply the best bass player available for those dreams that need a lash to keep their torso erect.

Having said that: there is no denying the profound interactions of writing sound plots with those of the lyrics, for the first time hermetic, elusive but incapable (thank God or whoever) of leaving us in the dangerous soup of indifference: Neil's pen is not a beacon, a glow, but a whisper that does not need to be deciphered. His lyrics are hieroglyphics proud to be understood only by him, but they know how to touch the heart, to give the conviction that his private sphere should not be violated.

The ambient part is incredibly mature, allowing the different musical genres present to live in the same space, without friction, hesitation or tension. The album is a fluid, flowing down from the mouths of the five seagulls, in a vertical journey, to perfectly centre our apparatuses, on parade, in need and waiting to not know the end...

It is hard to imagine, in a world that rudely catalogues and then forgets, where this princely bundle might be relegated: especially in England, modern-day music resembles the power play of a mass that knows the season of one day to exalt, only to throw it all away. But EVERYTHING IS ALIVE will endure: gods cannot be resisted, and these eight songs test the fragility of arrogance, annihilating it with over-the-top gentleness, elegantly.

Knowing how to listen means piloting the whole thing into the boundless interlock of immortality, the only suitable place for these eight morsels of a delicious food, capable not only of feeding but of lingering in the belly, in the mind, in our slow dance progressions, in our dreams liberated with the key of their class, the security seal of an unquestionable quality.

All that remains is for us to go and taste each of them, thanking them in advance....

Song by Song

1 - shanty

The album begins with a short, electronic score, the guitar is very

similar to that of Massive Attack's Teardrop, but capable of freeing

itself from the dangerous juxtaposition and then channelling itself

into an atmospheric game that seems to come out of a Greek

amphitheatre, with the sweetness of the voices of the Queen of

Hearts Rachel, and that of Neil, conveying the delicate Postrock

Psychedelia combination that crosses the sky of our


2 - prayer remembered

A conspicuous drop in rhythm takes us through the Slowdive world plan, everything from far-off 1991 to the present day, in an instrumental piece that allows us to hear the voices of the spirit replace those of the Reading duo. It's slow tears that rise up to the sky, in that Post-Rock roar that caresses the shoegaze base of the band, here careful, thoughtful in calibrating the suggestions, with Simon's drumming strokes that give rhythm to a continuous exploration. Music that comes out of the grains of sand of a behavioural desert: the five of them paint a masterpiece of unusual expectation, never an explosion, never an exaggeration, but rather a continuous migrating into the history of an intensity that does not need noise...

3 -alife

The temple of enchantment shows us Rachel nailing doubts in her afflatus, in her tribute, in her multifaceted bowing to hand over the baton of the song with a good rhythm to Neil, and it is a tangle of sensations that play at showing themselves, at changing clothes, in the only track of the album that allows itself a few more variations, but always in the lane of a necessary minimalism. Everything here is a mellowed corsair spirit, soft, rapacious but capable of being respectful, and the keyboards paint comforting, inspiring the guitars on a road paved with options that seem to be suggested by the Sixties

4 - andalucia plays

The Old Scribe has no doubts: this is Neil's most painful composition yet, an ordeal that descends from the heavens and shows the yawns of an almost silent but existing pain. His singing leads to weeping, while almost new age sounds and a guitar in the odour of The Cure's Faith rests on our hearts, gently destroying them. That semi-acoustic comes back, and the feeling that it is in these notes that all the talent that the Gods have bestowed on the five from Reading dwells. Compact, slow but quick to land in our envelopes, it makes a whispered boast out of its apparent simplicity...

5 - Kisses

With just a few chords, the rhythm immediately shows its tender capacity to make us dance in a story with a simple plot, but which uses metaphors, including musical ones, to allow us to enter the dream and kiss the desire for a dreamlike dimension without gagging our lips. With a decidedly shoegaze-like manner, annexing tiny acoustic particles, everything glides with their eclectic capacity for complex textures that transfigure, allowing us to store up the magnificence we have been able to hear. A full-bodied mantra, an enchanting lady for every court, royalty even for poor souls, Kisses is the perfect dream-soaked pop song, when Dreampop is not just a genre to be exhibited but a way of being otherworldly...

6 - skin in the game

An unavoidable maturity for the five seagulls: thirty-two years of career needed a reckoning, a moment when they had to come back: that's what their arrival, their journey, their meaning was... A feather distributor in the sack of our apnoea bodies, because these guitars are dynamite made incandescent without the need for an explosion but rather for navigating, second by second, in the amniotic body of an exalted labyrinth...

7 chained to a cloud

Can you rule the tide of stars dancing in the sky? If your name is Slowdive, at the very least, you can put on a stage performance and abandon all pretensions of being able to touch them. But: the band from Reading once again rents the mastery and designs a casing with the jewels that are released by the angelic singing of Rachel, a childlike woman full of grace who, supported by light echoes and reverberations, is just a step away from Neil's singing, to pack a plane of magnetism filled with a floating, stainless and impermeable magic, within a loop that with the keyboard finds a way to fix the song in Olympus, the only place where comets never die. Six minutes and fifty-one seconds where what does not occur is respect for this elaborate round parenthesis within which mathematics changes skin and becomes thrill

8 - the slab

In the skies of Reading an electric shock, a tremor, a veracious and voracious ecstasy takes possession of the senses and determines the birth of an unprecedented sonic embrace: the slab is the laboratory of the unusual, an unforeseen game, an unusual assonance that determines emotional earthquakes capable of directing the evaluation of the album with only two words: MULTIPLE GRACE.

The guitars are lapidary, but not still, rather the wings of seagulls that grab the melody and nail it in the lanes of a space never so generous with elaborate sound strategies. Defining everything we have heard so far and bringing it out of our comprehension, the coda is a jewel that confirms that Slowdive are capable of having the sound of our time but perfectly connected to that which preceded it. Only the masters can do this...

In conclusion: in the hope that the pundits, the inept, the precisers of all nonsense will disappear, this work is a stratospheric combo in which to grow and a pool in which to navigate between the songs that eventually become waves capable of accommodating all our nonsense.

But it is precisely food that will fall relentlessly from the five seagulls to whom we owe the eternal bow...


Alex Dematteis



7th September 2023

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