Old Meets New
The EDM phenomenon has cemented itself firmly in American culture as a mainstay of youthdom. Clearly, a titanic love exists for going out and having the experience of a lifetime on a club or festival floor. This surge of electronica has made waves that can be heard all across the musical landscape, with several alternative acts adopting dreamy synth sounds that represent what everyone is being exposed to in the real world. But there also exists a growing demand for artists that are stripping away all mechanic sounds, and continuing a Liz Phair-reminiscent rock tradition of analog-only sounds. This isn’t to say one approach is wrong, and one is correct. But there is a divide forming. Just compare Chris Lake’s “Operator (Ring Ring) [feat. Dances With White Girls]” from the amply-Facebook-advertised HOWSLA to PWR BTTM’s bare-bones rock anthem, “I Wanna Boi” to hear just a small sample of the options available to current music fans. Where, then, exists an act that bridges this divide in their music to create a best-of-both-worlds scenario?
Look no further.
A valid question to ask Slowdive before the formation of their recently-released self-titled work would have been “how do you guys plan on speaking to an audience that has evolved in the twenty-plus years since you released a record in 1995?” To which a valid response would be “that’s a stupid question.” Valid — because, with the landscape having essentially circled back to the time from which Slowdive was born, they didn’t need to change a thing about how they go about making music. They just needed to utilize the new tools that are available to them. This can be heard, plain and simple, in the first thirty seconds of “Slomo,” the first song on the record. Familiar ’90s-esque electric guitar softly delivers itself quietly in the night to the doorstep of an equally sensitive synth pad, and elevation continues from that relationship with a familiar cool-kid shoegaze drumbeat. The familiar isn’t replacing the new on this album. It simply exists alongside it.
Shoegaze often gets a bad rep for being music for sad goths. “No More Sorry” by My Bloody Valentine, in particular, sounds like the end of the world. Indeed, emotionally colorful music often tends to lend itself to vulnerability, and therefore sadness. However, if the driving power chords in “Star Roving” have anything to say about the matter, hope is far from lost. In fact, hope is the sound that Slowdive conveys best. The band are often mentioned in the dream pop category, as the carefree guitar sounds on “Don’t Know Why” and “Everyone Knows” will confirm, as they conjure up similar teen beach party images to those of Real Estate and Beach House. The difference here, though, is that the dream pop sounds on Slowdive sound like a final Pokémon evolution of the sounds of the aforementioned artists. They sound more mature, because they come from a place of knowing what the despair of “No More Sorry” feels like. And that’s why, when Slowdive gets solemn in the finale, “Falling Ashes,” its repeating piano riff is not only more impactful, it evolves the sound of evocative sadness away from despair into a melancholy-tinged peace.