The Right Kind of Slow
Slowdive, erm, SLOWDIVE are here to sooth the jagged nerves of the post-rave, post-Ecstasy comedown with the same beauty that has distilled the beast which was once My Bloody Valentine. SIMON WILLIAMS dives in head first. Slow motions: MARTYN GOODACRE
It didn't occur to us to cancel, to be honest. We'd rehearsed really hard for these dates. Besides which, we didn't actually realise it was snowing until we went we went out of the front door to get into the tour van. . ."
A nation lies quivering under blankets of snow, like an over-imaginative child who sees a troupe of trolls in the nocturnal shadows of his bedroom. British Rail have given up, and gigs have been cancelled everywhere. Not everyone, however, has succumbed to the climate. If you stumble across a transit van trundling along at 20 miles per hour in a blizzard, chances are its inhabitants will be Slowdive. They're getting used to it by now: it snowed during their last tour in 1990; and the skies (in)conveniently opened up again on the very first date of this, their second national trek.
If that wasn't a vindictive enough curse to handle, these dates have already been struck by misfortune. There was a ruction with the support band in Brighton, a vanishing effects pedal in Guildford, and then they managed to end up in a fight in Harlow "with a bunch of meatheads" who took umbrage with Slowdive's haircuts. The band didn't take it lying down.
"I got hold of this guy," remembers singing guitarist Rachel, "and I managed to pull LOADS of his hair out!"
SLOWDIVE, it has to be said, don't look like pavement pounding tusslers. Even swigging Latvian lager in the bar at Norwich Arts Centre, the vision of Rachel, fellow singing guitarist Neil, other chord-crawler Christian, bassist Nick and drummer Simon in full collective effect is hardly likely to send tremors of terror down the creaking spines of the local OAP's society.
Nor is their music destined to give Napalm Death sleepless nights worrying about new, noisier kids on the block. In a word, Slowdive's sound is lovely. In a heart-palpitating paragraph, Slowdive have banished the barriers restricting creativity. They've sloped out of Reading to peddle an other-worldly noise which thrives on trembling shapes and tumbling dimensions, where atmosphere-drenched dramatics coerce with shimmering distortion to induce sublime, elegant swirls (Of course - Ed). When they really relax, Slowdive can make Cocteau Twins resemble Mudhoney.
"It's multi-layered music, innit?" beams Neil. "It's like lasagne!"
"It's like a rainbow," sneers Simon.
Yeah, Slowdive sound like sky. More than that their first, eponymously-titled EP and the mesmerising follow-up, 'Momingrise' potentially represent the post-rave comedown, the withdrawal symptoms after the E-guzzling, floor-shuddering, farmyard-rutting fandango which, like virtually everything else in the history of entertainment, was corrupted by its own corruptive instincts.
"You can't really dance to us," acknowledges Neil. "You sort of sway to it. At our last gig there were these guys with baseball hats and allthe ravey gear and they were trying to dance to every single song-we were cracking up! But there's a lot of similarities betweenus and what DJs do with synths, trying to get really ambient sorts of songs. It's the same kind of mood."
"Our first EP was certainly ambient," agrees Christian. "We fell asleep playing it. . ."
But Slowdive wield a doubleedged sword; just as The Beloved and The Orb represent baggy bliss-outs, so Slowdive, along with the Valentines; Chapterhouse and the new, improved Telescopes epitomise the calm after the headsplitting, feedback-spitting guitar storm. Beauty is fast becoming the finest virtue of them all.
"There is a lot to be said for the argument that noise has had its day,"opines Nick.
"Everyone's mellowed out," nods Neil "Everyone's trying to find a different sound. My Bloody Valentine reached a certain point where they couldn't take it any further, and there were so many bands that ended up sounding like them you have to pull away and go somewhere else. That's what we're trying to do."
"It's really productive at the moment," adds Simon, optimistically, "there's loads of bands crawling out of the woodwork which are getting away from what's gone before. That's really good. The thing is, in six months there'll be another band who'll stumble across something which sounds even newer."
SIMON'S PROBABLY right, but it's hard to imagine any fresher noise than that bubbling away at the moment. Slowdive have stretched their sound to such embarrassing extremes it just begs the question, how mellow can you go?
"If you think you've made the ultimate record, you might as well forget it," retorts Christian.
"It's like an athlete," muses Nick. "If he thinks the world record for 100 metres is such-and-such and he can't run it any faster, why would he bother starting? You just keep going." Conversely, are Slowdive so far removed from the mainstream that they're physically incapable of writing a simple three-minute pop song?
"It's just not appealing," replies Neil. "Lou Reed was on a songwriting production line before the Velvet Underground, so obviously you can do it. But even if we tried to make one I don't think it . would turn out like a three-minute pop song."
"We're caught between moods and songs, really," elaborates Nick. "They're both equally important because you can have a mood and it can be really boring after a while if you're not in the right mood, and you can have a song and play it to death and then it's disposable. We're trying to reach a happy medium."
"We've had to drop certain songs from our set because they don't fit in any more," reveals Christian. "It spoils the mood." "Basically, they're faster," helps Neil. "So when you stick them in the set they stick out like sore thumbs. That's why we're ccalled Slowdive - it would really f- people up if we did a fast song. We'd have to be called Fastdive. . ."
Absolutely. Rave down.
Originally appeared in NME 23 February 1991
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