Souvlaki

Slowdive

Creation Records Ltd., 1994

http://www.slowdive.co.uk

REVIEW BY: Benny Balneg

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/08/2007

Riding a floating vessel treading the deepest blue sea somehow arouses a sense of helplessness in me, in which I can do nothing but fall victim in the immense nothingness of the sea. However, the reassuring rhythm of the waves buoying my travel trudges me into its mesmerizing trance. Such vivid experience is perfectly captured on Souvlaki.

Slowdive was one of the more popular bands in the early ‘90s playing shoegazer/dreampop music, where rhythm and guitar weave an uncompromising wall of sound, and the muffled vocals add to the layer of strangely tuneful melodies and catchy choruses. However, Slowdive takes a more different approach, focusing on creating a lush guitar sound summoning waves that surge the senses of the listener, and the lazy, dreamlike atmosphere creating the undercurrents.

Such an impression becomes apparent in “Alison,” a song clearly displaying the blueprint of the band’s modus operandi and the band’s most well known track. Vocalist Rachel Goswell careens a lucid dream with lyrics “Listen close, and don't be stoned / I'll be here in the morning / ‘Cause I'm just floating.” Guitarists Neil Halstead and Christian Saville follow up with arresting melodies from the beautiful unknown.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“When The Sun Hits” ups the ante with an epic and ominous guitar intro, only to burst into a pop-heavy chorus later on. The song exemplifies the dominance of the guitar in the music, with delay and chorus effects giving breadth to the sound as well as sing-worthy choruses that lay indelible imprints on the back of one’s mind.

“Machine Gun,” with its somber and low-key mood, is the heart of this dreampop experience. The jangling guitar and laconic drumming recalls ‘80s new wave bands like Cocteau Twins. However, the poetry of the guitar sound dissolves the listeners like a drug crawling through a famished addict’s veins. It just feels so good, albeit in the most harrowing way possible.

A problem that may arise with listening to mood-themed albums like Souvlaki is that the listener has to be in a certain state of emotion in order to fully comprehend the album's content. Souvlaki becomes a more enriching listen when the listener sympathizes with the feelings of despondency and isolation here. When the listener is in a positive state of mind, however, the album loses some of its conviction because it doesn't really grab hold of the listener in that sense.

Aside from this inherent problem, some of the songs just work out fine. The troika of “Sing,” “Here She Comes” and “Souvlaki Space Station” are full-blown realizations of their sound. The band, which also produced the album, definitely has the talent for taking its music to the next level, unabashed with adding layers to their guitar sound without compromise. Although this might be confused for musical indulgence, this is just excellent soundscapism.

Also, the bonus tracks made available with this release are gems of a find, especially “Some Velvet Morning,” a strange, off-kilter song with infectious melodies and touches of different moods and time passages. On the other hand, “Good Day Sunshine” and “Missing You” are further proofs of the band’s penchant to expand and experiment with their music.

With the different nuances of the waves that the sea treads, floating in the middle of nowhere has never been this profound. Introverted in sound, but mesmerizing in its trance-like state, you’d find yourself taking the Souvlaki trip again and again.

 

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 2007 Benny Balneg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Creation Records Ltd., and is used for informational purposes only.