Slowdive once promised to be like a mind-altering substance without the risk, Getintothis‘ David Hall witnessed the re-emergence of a vital force in Liverpool.
When the band called it a day in 1995, their nucleus of vocalist Rachel Goswell and guitarist Neil Halstead always remained intact.
Having spent the intervening years in keystone acts like 4AD darlings Mojave 3, on solo projects and latterly the supergroup Minor Victories, Slowdive reunited after almost two decades in 2014. With a string of tour dates ahead of them, the five-piece hit Liverpool fresh from the announcement that their new album Slowdive will drop on May 5.
The band kicked off with the hypnotic thrum of Avalyn, swimming the audience through a tunnel of sound with its fluid bassline and weirdly arrhythmic drum fills, before settling into the depthy gain of Catch the Breeze. If their parent EP’s production feels slightly dusty in 2017, live the material was sharpened, its strengths heightened and the depths deepened.
Their material ranged from ambient soundscaping to scorching shoegaze, like when a throbbing, driving bassline was cloaked in ethereal keys on Crazy For You. The waterfalls of noise enveloping When The Sun Hits was massive, as did the convulsive drum fills that powered 40 Days along, and the stabbed guitar chords of Souvlaki Space Station stood thick and hyper-delayed in the atmosphere.
A whole new generation of fans seemed equally excited about Slowdive‘s forthcoming material as the older heads were about the hits. The crowd responded just as vocally when Crazy For You‘s twinkling riff resounded through the Arts Club‘s columns as when Halstead sounded the guitar line for new track Sugar For The Pill.
Goswell and Halstead‘s vocals entwined in an ethereal duet on Star Roving, while drum pads machine-gunned with impressive precision over the song’s deliciously lustred chord progression.
Coming back for an encore, Slowdive‘s woozy vocals conjured a literal slow dive, a gradual drain circle, like being pulled into an undertow or the entire world being drawn into a microscopic black hole at its core.
Support act Ulrika Spacek were a perfect match, showing just why they figured so highly on this year’s FestEVOL Gardens announcement, following a Psych Fest set to remember. Their dream pop inspired new material (a forthcoming record is slated for a June release) owed more to Adore era Smashing Pumpkins than the krautrock basslines and crystal distortion canyons of last year’s The Album Paranoia.
Another of Slowdive‘s new songs No Longer Making Time was a dispatched late in their set as a further winner, coming on like The xx and going off like a firework, before slinking away just as moodily. The material on show at the Arts Club hinted at what a magnificent return Slowdive might be, almost as if the group had never taken a break.
Pictures by Getintothis’ Gary Coughlan