Slowdive — co-founders Neil Halstead (vocals, guitar) and Rachel Goswell along with Nick Chaplin (bass), Christian Savill (guitar) and Simon Scott (drums) — will be releasing their highly-anticipated fifth album everything is alive on September 1, 2023 through Dead Oceans. everything is alive is the shoegaze pioneers’ first album in over six years, and the material reportedly sees the British outfit finding ever more contours of its immersive, elemental sound. Individually, each of the album’s songs contain the duality of a familiar internal language mixed with the exaltation of new beginnings.
The record began with the band’s Halstead in the role of writer and producer, working on demos at home. Experimenting with modular synths, Halstead originally conceived everything is alive as a “more minimal electronic record.” The band’s collective decision-making ultimately saw them drawing back to their signature reverb-drenched guitar sound — but the synths seeped their way into the compositions. “As a band, when we’re all happy with it, that tends to be the stronger material. We’ve always come from slightly different directions, and the best bits are where we all meet in the middle.” Halstead says. “Slowdive is very much the sum of its parts,” Goswell adds. “Something unquantifiable happens when the five of us come together in a room.”
The album was recorded over a couple of years, starting in the fall of 2020 at Courtyard Studio, where they’ve historically recorded. Sessions moved to Oxfordshire, and then the Wolds of Lincolnshire and then to Halstead’s Cornish studio. Early last year, the band enlisted Shawn Everett to mix six of the album’s eight tracks.
Because of their deep and lengthy history, there’s a palpable familial energy to the band — and fittingly to to the album: The album is dedicated to Goswell’s mother and Scott’s father, who both died in 2020. “There were some profound shifts for some of us personally,” Goswell says. Life’s profound shifts and uneasy crossroads are often reflected in the many-layered emotional tenor of their music. And while everything is aliveis informed by some of life’s heaviest experiences, the material sees the band poised, wizened and pitching themselves to hope. Sure, there’s sadness, but there’s gratitude and uplift, coming from the acknowledgement that life is complicated yet profoundly beautiful in itself.
Thematically, the album is in many ways an exploration into the shimmering nature of life and the universal touch points within it. Sonically, the album reportedly sees the acclaimed British outfit boldly pushing their sound towards the future with the material touching upon the psychedelic soundscapes they’ve long been known for but with 80s electronic elements, and John Cale-inspired journeys.
In the lead-up to the album’s release on Friday, I’ve managed to write about three of the album’s singles:
- “kisses,” a breathtakingly gorgeous song, which struck me as being a sort of gentle refinement of the classics enveloping Slowdive sound that fans have long adored: reverb-drenched guitar textures,. Goswell’s and Halstead’s uncannily precise, yearning harmonies, soaring hooks and choruses and a gently driving groove — with featuring an emphasis on atmospheric synths. The result is a song that — for me, at least — evokes a waking dream full of intertwined yearning, nostalgia and hope.
- “skin in the game,” a slow-burning, forlorn and smudged song built around Halstead’s aching vocal radiating outward from hazy and distorted guitars paired with a narcotic and syrupy rhythm. Much like its immediate predecessor, the song evokes a woozily heartbreaking nostalgia, mixed with regret., unease and uncertainty.
- “the slab,” one of the album’s heaviest songs and arguably one of Slowdive’s heaviest songs they’ve written or recorded in some time. Built around skittering and thunderous percussion, layers of reverb-drenched guitar fuzz and menacing synths, the song features Halstead’s plaintive delivery buried in the mix, seemingly desperately to burst out from its confines.
The album’s fourth and final pre-release single “alfie” is a breathtakingly gorgeous song that harkens back to the band’s 2017 self-titled album with the track featuring layers of shimmering guitars paired with a steady backbeat, Halstead’s yearning reverb-soaked vocal and the founding duo’s uncannily precise harmonies.
“‘alife’ is one of the first tunes we finished for the record,” Slowdive’s Halstead says. “Shawn Everett did a really nice job with the mix. We tried so many times to figure out a good mix by ourselves and couldn’t do it . . . it sort of had us beaten until Shawn stepped in. We decided if he could handle that one he could probably do the whole record. Our friend Jake Nelson did a really nice animation for this song; it takes some of the imagery from the artwork and digs a little deeper into that.”