Shoe-gazers and lovers of nineties nostalgia rejoice, as infamous noise-making quintet Slowdive have shook the earth once more with their new single ‘Star Roving.’ The single, which was accompanied by the news that the band has signed to Indiana-based indie label Dead Oceans, serves as a landmark occasion for the band, as it is the first music to be released under the Slowdive moniker since the 1995 album Pygmalion.
The news may come as no surprise to some, considering the band’s reformation in 2014, and especially when the past decade has been home to the resurgence of several bands that were rooted in the nineties alternative, with Ride, My Bloody Valentine and even for a short period, Lush, being just a few of the notable examples. However, that is not to say that Slowdive are just another band choosing to humour the shoegaze cash cow. Rather, even in their first life the band seemed determined to push the boundaries of the conventions of the shoegaze genre—you would only need to look so far as the 1995 album Pygmalion in comparison to the unappreciated dream pop masterpiece that is 1993’s Souvlaki to realise this. In choosing to release new music rather than coasting on the success of their previous releases, the group seem to boldly proclaim that there are still further sonic avenues to be explored.
With that being said, ‘Star Roving’ is still distinctly Slowdive. Familiar, but still different and adventurous in it its own right. The track hurtles into existence with distant, reverb-drenched guitar chords before quickly exploding into an eloquent soundscape of layered guitars, droning synths and a driving but simplistic group effort from the rhythm section—something that might not seem at all out of place on 1993’s Souvlaki. As the verse starts, and the layers of guitar noise subside – just for a second – any possible doubts that this isn’t a Slowdive track are immediately forgotten as Neil Halstead’s familiar vocals – artfully concealed under lashings of delay – are forced into centre stage from the peripheries of consciousness. Nick Chaplin accompanies Halstead producing a tasteful, dancey bassline that weaves with Halstead’s vocals through the whirlwind of noise. From the synth-like effect applied to Chaplin’s bass as well as the choir of synth chords that complement the track, it is obvious that an influence from dance and electronic music has aided the quintet in creating their latest soundscape.
As the track subsides once more, we are greeted with another familiarity; that of Rachel Goswell’s ghostly vocals that emerge from the previous barrage of guitar and synth chaos which is suddenly stripped to its bare minimum, as Goswell’s eerie, reverberated wails guide us in the calm before quickly being propelled into further sonic destruction. While not distinctly different from the band’s back catalogue, ‘Star Roving’ acts as a great introduction to, or a condensed ‘greatest-hits’ of Slowdive due to their artful picking-and-choosing of the best bits of their previous work. The hypnotising, droning qualities of 1991’s Just For A Day are present, but equally so are the manipulations of space and absences of sound found on 1995’s Pygmalion. While this may come as a disappointment for some, ‘Star Roving’ excels as a testament to the group’s song-writing capabilities, even twenty years on, acting as a gentle re-familiarisation with the band in its most recent form. If the experimental nature of the band’s back-catalogue is anything to go by, Slowdive has a lot in store for 2017.