Slowdiveeverything is alive
Dead Oceans

- Six years in the making, Slowdive return with everything is alive, an album which further showcases the band’s diversity and manages to sound both foreign and familiar. everything is alive is a sonic departure from their 2017 self-titled album, relying heavily on the use of synthesisers and atmospherics to produce a dreamlike, gossamer sound. Despite this shift in direction, the album still bears the classic Slowdive hallmarks: reverb drenched guitars, Rachel Goswell’s haunting vocals and a pop sensibility that is uniquely their own.

Ironically, despite the positive connotations of the album’s title, everything is alive suffered a difficult and prolonged birth. Before convening as a group, Neil Halstead composed several demos in his home studio, with a view to create a more minimalist, electronic record. However, initial band rehearsals -scheduled for April 2020- had to be scrapped as a result of the pandemic. Slowdive were finally able to rehearse as a full band toward the end of 2020, and it was then that Halstead’s initial ideas were fleshed out and finalised. Recording took place across multiple studios, but fittingly, everything is alive was able to come full circle, reaching completion in Halstead’s home studio in early 2022.

Lead singles kisses and skin in the game are both immediately recognisable as Slowdive. Neither would have been out of place on the group’s last album, though both tracks contain a lightness and a brightness that has not been immediately evident on previous releases. Whilst Slowdive have always made radiant music, it has usually been tinged with sadness; bearing a weight that, though unspoken, is glaringly obvious.

What is most surprising about everything is alive, is how much it can make you feel with so little. Vocals are often used sparingly, forcing the instrumentation to communicate the emotional weight of the songs. prayer remembered is a wholly instrumental track that builds slowly and steadily utilising a mix of synth, drums and barely-there guitar. It is not unlike Joy Division’s Atmosphere, though not as hopeless or depressing, with a sense of melody indebted to Brian Eno’s early ambient pieces, such as The Big Ship.

andalucia plays is, unmistakably, the album’s highlight and quite possibly one of the single-most beautiful songs released this year. An almost seven minute exercise in simplicity and restraint, memorable for its recall of minor, minute details, such as a treasured shirt or a song on the stereo. andalucia plays’ power lies in the way it voices the human trait of memorising the insignificant details in otherwise significant moments. Something all too familiar to anyone who harbours a treasured memory of time spent with someone they love, or loved.

It would be interesting, for comparison’s sake, to hear Halstead’s original vision for the album. There is an obvious simplicity in the structure of many of the songs and sense of space that has not been present since the stark minimalism present on Pygmalion. Despite this shared simplicity, Pygmalion felt cold, clinical and distant, whereas everything is alive radiates a warmth that embraces the listener, as opposed to pushing them away. Free-flowing, captivating and hypnotising, an album of stark, but striking beauty that lingers long after the last track has ended. This is a record worth spending time with, and one you can lose yourself in.

- Nick Stephan.

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