Boomkat Product Review:
Slowdive's fifth album and second since reforming is an impeccably-produced delight that captures the blown-out beauty of their beloved 'Souvlaki', bringing it into new territory with fractal, psychedelic textures and stacked analog synth cycles.
It's so rare for cherished, trailblazing bands to reform and retain their OG energy that it's almost easier to believe it never happens. Slowdive have always had knack for sidestepping expectations though; even when they were releasing their most influential material, the music press were desperate to tear them down. It took many years before they received the recognition they deserved, and they've repaid fans by continuing to refine the genre-defining mood they nurtured early on, teasing it into fresh spaces without losing momentum.
'Everything is alive' started life as a more minimal electronic record, with Neil Halstead writing demos that reflected his interest in experimental modular synth music, later fleshed out with a more recognisable 'Slowdive' sound when the band reconvened in full. This alloy of ideas is evident on 'shanty', opening with dramatic synth sequences and pads before bursting into a wash of reverb-drenched guitars, into Rachel Goswell and Halstead's tranquillised vocals. There are any number of bands who have tried to hijack this sound over the last couple of decades, but the Slowdive's sound is evidently impossible to replicate: Simon Scott's driving drums and euphoric electronic treatments, Christian Savill's weightless riffs, Nick Chaplin's low-slung bass plucks. Everything contributes to a muggy whole that's immediately recognisable, without feeling mired in nostalgia.
The album is dedicated to Goswell's mother and Scott's father, who both died in 2020. So this time round the band's sadness turns to palpable grief. Halstead mentions that it didn't feel right to make a dark record, so the songs trace a mountainous emotional topography without resorting to doom and gloom. Lead single 'alife' is a saccharine, uplifting reminder of 'Alison', and 'kisses' might be the band's poppiest recording to date, blessed with a hooky chorus that's romantic and utopian. But elsewhere the mood is more ambivalent; 'chained to a cloud' is dusky and low-lit, assembled around a stepped analog synth pulse that wouldn't sound out of place on an electro-pop record, and closing track 'the slab' is saturated, noisy and strangely uplifting, Halstead and Goswell's vocals buried under an avalanche of distortion.