The Strong but Gentle Sound Catharsis of Slowdive at The Ogden Theatre, 11/1/17

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Slowdive at The Ogden Theatre, November 1, 2017. Photo by Tom Murphy

 

When Slowdive announced in January 2014 that it would perform at Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona of course speculation began about a new album. But the band wisely promised nothing it couldn’t deliver. The tour in various corners of the world including North America re-established Slowdive as one of the premier bands of ethereal guitar rock and one whose aesthetic and sound ideas reflected its interests in ambient and electronic music. But Slowdive’s appeal beyond the transporting sounds has been the deep emotional sweep and sense of intimacy within its songwriting. How can one not be struck by the peeks into the revelatory private moments and dreams exposed by songs like “Sing,” “Albatross,” and “Blue Skied An’ Clear”? What might have surprised long time fans that never got to see the group before it split in the mid-1990s was how forceful its emotionally-saturated sound could be.

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Slowdive at The Ogden Theatre, November 1, 2017. Photo by Tom Murphy

When Slowdive released its self-titled album in 2017 it was a relief to learn the band didn’t try to replicate the vibe or the feel of any of its previous records. Among other efforts, when Slowdive split in the mid-90s Rachel Goswell, Neil Halstead and Ian McCutcheon (no longer in Slowdive) went on to do Mojave 3, Christian Savill to Monster Movie and other projects and Simon Scott to Televise, Lowgold and The Sight Below. Halstead also had/has a noteworthy solo career. Somewhere in those experiences, it seems as though the current members of Slowdive refined their songwriting skills, absorbed ideas and sounds that weren’t around or as developed over twenty years ago. Whatever the roots of the new Slowdive songs, they are a fine successor to the heartbreaking dream pop of Just For a Day, the hypnotic brooding and intensity of Souvlaki, the abstract soundscapes, dub sculpting and mind-altering minimalism of Pygmalion. There is a warmth, a comfort, a soothing capacity from a place of mature psychological development. It is the kind of record only people past their thirties could have written all too aware of the poisonously soporific quality of nostalgia that hits most of us in our mid-thirties as middle age comes hurtling down with its own challenges and fears and the temptation to tune out anything new can be irresistible. The self-titled Slowdive album achieves a timelessness in bypassing the existential terror and a reminder to keep dreaming and find enjoyment in life while not ignoring the fact that life’s challenges and struggles are not unique to a certain time in your life even if their faces and qualities change.

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Slowdive at The Ogden Theatre, November 1, 2017. Photo by Tom Murphy

The show at The Ogden Theatre on November 1, 2017 itself was a reflection of a band that seems to enjoy playing its music for a larger and likely more appreciative crowd. Many of its new fans grew up with the kind of electronic music and aesthetic that informed Pygmalion, the record that lost the band its record deal with Creation but one that was more forward thinking than the records of many of its contemporaries. That said, most of the shoegaze bands that have reunited over the past decade to release new albums have done so without wasting our time with subpar comeback albums. And in putting on shows that more than live up to the legends of times past. Perhaps even surpassing them. When the early strains of “Golden Hair” the Syd Barrett cover, those of us that only ever heard the recorded version on reissues and compilations had no idea what we were in for and as the sounds swirled up and up in volume and density it was a sonic, cyclone of ethereal fire that transformed from a deeply haunting, overwhelming experience into a heightened sense of catharsis of melancholy. In short, though drawing on another artists material, it was the embodiment of Slowdive’s project as a band—the feelings may hit hard, hurt so thoroughly and stick with you but you can make it through intact if you allow yourself to experience them in their fullest extent.

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Slowdive at The Ogden Theatre, November 1, 2017. Photo by Tom Murphy

Set List
Slomo
Slowdive
Crazy For You
Star Roving
Souvlaki
Avalyn
Catch the Breeze
Don’t Know Why
Blue Skied An’ Clear
When the Sun Hits
Alison
Sugar For the Pill
Golden Hair
No Longer Making Time
Dagger
40 Days

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Slowdive at The Ogden Theatre, November 1, 2017. Photo by Tom Murphy
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Slowdive at The Ogden Theatre, November 1, 2017. Photo by Tom Murphy
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Slowdive at The Ogden Theatre, November 1, 2017. Photo by Tom Murphy

Author: simianthinker

Editor, primary content provider for this blog. Former contributor to Westword and The Onion.

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