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Everything Is Alive Irina Shtreis , August 29th, 2023 08:06

On their second post-reunion album, the Reading shoegaze stalwarts reach out to the supernatural

Over their fifteen-year course of existence (including the initial six and subsequent nine following the reunion), Slowdive have released five albums. Each of their records is a new statement, marking the transition yet featuring trademark elements. In 2017, the group returned from a two-decade hiatus with a haunting album that summoned up many of the same forces as the band’s classic Just For A Day. Like their 1991 debut, that first post-reunion record was shrouded in a familiar mist with a richly ornamented texture.

New record, Everything Is Alive, however, appears to be more immediate and transparent than its predecessor. It begins with a krautrock-y pulse from the modular synth arpeggio that opens ‘Shanty’, gradually dispersing mild splashes of reverb-drenched guitars. This is one of the few examples where that former shoegaze obliqueness is present. Elsewhere, the album’s intensity builds up through post-rock-esque sonic landscapes such as that on the instrumental ‘Prayer Remembered’.

Other tracks such as ‘Alife’ and ‘Kisses’ suggest a new wave touch. Accordingly, the average length of the songs on the new album varies between four to six minutes, which is slightly shorter than on Slowdive.

There is a spiritual motif here, that comes from the personal events in one of the band members’ lives – the passing of Rachel Goswell’s parents. Still, instead of what one might expect to be a sorrowful record, Everything Is Alive, as the title suggests, unveils a theme of spiritual presence. There is light, hope and memorial grace.

Despite this new turn, there is an inescapable sense of meeting with the past. ‘Kisses’, in particular, hints at post-punk melancholia tinged with the hazy sound of the New Romantics. The accompanying video is pretty much in the Duran Duran vein, showing a teenage rider sweeping down the streets of twilit Naples, giving a lift to exhausted acquaintances. The dreamlike scenery evokes mythology – an association with Charon taking the dead over the Styx. Likewise, the album’s cover brings to mind the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur.

While at first listen Everything Is Alive might seem plain and minimalist, its flavours can be savoured for a long time. A bit similar to a perennial flower regrowing every spring. Like wonders of life and death hiding beyond the seemingly impenetrable façade of routine and time, its sonic complexity lies beneath the surface.