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Splendidly hypnotic and graceful: The 25th anniversary of Pygmalion by Slowdive

Slowdive

Reunited shoegaze outfit Slowdive (Photo Credit: Jean Carlo Rivadeneira)

In the shoegaze scene, it’s no secret that everyone dreams about having a girlfriend like Rachel Goswell from Slowdive. It’s also common place that fans debate whether the production of Pygmalion outwits Souvlaki or vice versa (or perhaps Just for a Day could stand out for once?)

All joking aside, Slowdive remain to this day one of the most influential shoegaze bands in history. Prior to their long hiatus of nearly twenty years, the English shoegaze giant released their third studio album Pygmalion in 1995. Instead of obliging to craft a pop follow-up record (think Souvlaki’s ‘Alison’ which is consented as “more accessible to the ears”), Pygmalion went the unorthodox, experimental route. At the time, guitarist and songwriter Neil Halstead began to grow fond of ambient and contemporary electronic music – so Slowdive decided to go big or go home.

Within a week of the release of Pygmalion, founder of Creation Records Alan McGee dropped the shoegaze five-piece. 

Slowdive (Rëga Alëxåndria)
Photo credit: Rëga Alëxåndria

The reunion of Slowdive

The group reunited in 2014, and shoegaze fans reunited as well. Slowdive soon made appearances in different cities across the globe and eventually released their long-overdue self-titled fourth album in 2019. As a 90s shoegaze kid who had just missed the heyday of shoegaze, I still remembered the excitement of catching Slowdive at Laneway Festival Singapore despite standing in the rain. Ever since their reunion, I have had the privilege of seeing them live thrice. I was relieved that they are so much more than just floppy haircuts. I was mostly just feeling joyfully overwhelmed as the wall of sound enveloped me.

Despite for the fact that Pygmalion was once disregarded, it has come to people’s realisation that it’s an acquired taste. Once you start embracing it, it’s a multifaceted brain-melting listening experience.  

Slowdive
Slowdive at Eric Arthur Blair’s (George Orwell) grave⁠

Even after two decades, ‘Crazy for You’ carries on being the most simplistic love song of all time. While ‘Miranda’ is easily one of the most melancholic yet alluring tracks on the album, ‘Trellisaze’ builds a mind-bending soundscape for listeners to zone out into their imagination. And with Rachel’s dreamlike vocals threaded in a tapestry of sound, ‘Blue Skied An’ Clear’ resembles true ethereality.

The album symbolises how these five individuals reinvented themselves and evolved as a band. Even if that meant it would take another lifetime to pursue a lucrative music career in this bloody-thirsty industry. Last but not least, for those who haven’t already checked out the beautifully sublime demo version of Pygmalion – specifically ‘Crazy for You’ and ‘Watch Me’ – it’s probably time to do that.  

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