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With an unusual orientation of introspection, shoegazing, muted vocals and breathless guitar effects, Reading band Slowdive were a diamond in the rough in the early 1990's. While the rest of the world was busy getting caught up with Nirvanathon and American grunge (which is fair enough, I must say), Slowdive were quietly making beautiful music that, sadly, has never quite recieved the attention it so rightly deserves.
'Souvlaki' represents Slowdive at the peak of their success and skill. Released between the promising EP 'Just for a Day' and full length album 'Pygmalian', this record strikes the perfect balance that the band has always strived for.
Kicking off with the glorious 'Alison' and ending with the muted 'Country Rain', the album has a trajectory that illustrates those young hedonisitc days of daydreaming and shoegazing that the band members all inevitably experienced. The general feeling is one of nostalgia, beauty and, yes I am going to say this - out-of-body sensation.
Rachel Goswell and Neil Halstead provide the breathless, beautiful vocals that are in actual fact rather indecipherable. This is certainly not to the record's detriment, since Slowdive were a band more focused on the instrumental element of music. Whilst Goswell's whispery voice is indeed beautiful, her words are irrelevant and the mere indication of voice itself holds the true interest of the song. Songs such as 'Dagger' and 'Machine Gun' rely more upon the revealing tones of the vocalists rather than actual linear song words, and the result is almost intoxicating.
'Souvlaki' is a truly beautiful album that lies most definitely withtin the genre of shoegazing, though there are some fantastic, spangly moments of pop. 'Catch the Breeze' is a prime example of the band's ability to write more mainstream melodies, and it's a wonderful song - optimistic and summery, with an almost 'California Dreamin' quality to it.
I would recommend this record to all who appreciate beautiful music. Fans of Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine will find a true treat here in a band that provides the same theme but with more depth and maturity. Modern equivalent Sigur Ros pales in comparison, so fans of 'Takk' should most definitely give this record a try.
The only apparent 'negative' seems to be the distinct lack of traditional melody to most of the tracks. This, of course, will be of no consequence to those who appreciate the shoegazing genre, as it has never been a common component, but listeners of more mainstream pop may find this somewhat disconcerting. Admittedly, this is no record of hit singles, but I would contend the almost seamless instrumental quality makes for a far more interesting listen than your average pop album.
Ultimately, 'Souvlaki' is a record that represents that bit of nostalgia and daydreaming that we are all partial to, and for that reason, it truly deserves 5 stars.
Sandwiched between their promising debut 'Just For A Day' and the slightly disappointing 'Pygmalion', 'Souvlaki' represents Slowdive at the peak of their powers. Here was a band that garnered huge amounts of coverage in the music press but sold precious few records. Souvlaki (which is a Greek dish!) is awash with dizzy guitars and timid vocals and provides a benchmark for many shoegazing wannabies. Slowdive had a knowing detached cool about them. Their music wasn't lyrically based but it packed a huge emotional punch. Back in 1993 when the album was released the shoegazing scene was in the throes of burning itself out but 'Souvlaki' proved to be an apt swansong. Straight from the off 'Alison' kicks in creating a gorgeous quilt of sound. Neil Halstead’s vocals are warm and the whole thing has a real ring of majesty about it. 'Machine Gun', all swirly boy/girl (Rachel Goswell)vocals against a backdrop of scatter-gun guitars is genre defining. The vocals float so elegantly while all the time wave after wave of guitar melancholy get heaped into an intoxicating mix. '40 Days' continues in the same vein as you crave a sound system that this music deserves. At times it is so expansive, so overwhelming you may need to take a deep breath to stop yourself from fainting. The guitars are repetitive, circular and mesmerising. Slowdive prove they have more than one trick in the bag as 'Here She Comes' and 'Melon Yellow' are both beautiful understated ballads. It will be the marauding guitar fuelled dreamscapes that Slowdive will be remembered for though. 'Souvlaki Space Station' is a complicated flailing beast that has spinning fireworks guitar intersperses creating a sound that you could expect to hear when ET finally makes it home. Floppy fringed and glorious 'When the Sun Hits' must have sounded incredible live with its twinkle/abr
asive sound clashes. It is the albums most outstanding track combining riffs as gorgeous as those on 'There She Goes' with occasional powerful bursts of electric mania. While 'Souvlaki' is essential listening for mapping the direction indiepop was heading in the early nineties, it does highlight the shortcomings of the dreampop scene. 'Sing' and 'Dagger' best represent the headless tune heading in no particular direction that the scene seemed to produce especially near its death. That was the problem, a great idea was never built upon to sustain the considerable interest it had generated. Slowdive went on to record 'Pygmalion' in 1995 and then imploded. There are still various members of the band playing in Mojave 3 and they consistently come up with polished gems. Souvlaki remains Slowdive's most accomplished piece of work and has lost none of its power over the 8 years since it was released.
From the late 80's came Slowdive, seemingly typical of artists of that generation producing music associated with dream pop, indie and shoegazers. They formed in 1989 in Reading, producing a kind of trance-pop sound that gave them respect and a great CV of music. Slowdive's music generally has a slow, dense feel about it, induced by distorted guitars and ethereal vocals from Rachel Goswell. They were signed to Creation in UK and SBK in the US, and despite problems with SBK they went on to produce relatively successful records. But their success would never equal their talent. 'Souvlaki', following the LP 'Just for a day', works around the idea of pure sound, with overwhelming long rifts and distortion that can be either uplifting or melancholy. The album starts positively with a wash of guitars, strengthened by the entrancing vocals provided by Neil Halstead, with Rachel Goswell in the backing. The melody swurves up and down leading onto an equally captivating second track, with the unlikely name of 'Machine gun', which is soothing and uplifting. Brian Eno gives 'treatments and keyboards' to the songs 'Sing' and 'Here she comes', on which he is said to have had a large amount of influence. Various parts of it show signs of his own elevator-music style, adding an intriguing aspect to the songs. I also think he adds an element of beauty to 'Sing' with his rather exotic effects. 'Souvlaki' is seen as much more of a 'band' album than 'Pygmalion' simply because it is easy to separate performers within the music. 'Pygmalion' is made more hypnotic by the fact that it is rather inhuman, and almost seems to produce itself. The use of drums is more obvious on 'Souvlaki', as is the sound of the individual instruments, the guitar being less processed and distorted than on 'Pygmalion'. I find the two difficult to compare because they are so d
ifferent sounding, but I have never got tired with either. Look out for rarer EPs and singles by them: 'Slowdive' ; 'Morningrise' ; 'Blue Day' ; '5EP' ; 'Holding Our Breath' ; 5EP (in mind remixes) ; 'Outside your room'
Disc #1 Tracklisting
2 Machine Gun
3 40 Days
5 Here She Comes
6 Souvlaki Space Station
7 When The Sun Hits
9 Melon Yellow
Disc #2 Tracklisting
1 Some Velvet Morning
2 So Tired
3 Moussaka Chaos
4 In Mind
5 Good Day Sunshine
6 Missing You
7 Country Rain
8 In Mind
9 In Mind