i first came across SLOWDIVE while watching GREGG ARAKI films like THE DOOM GENERATION (DESPERATE PICTURES, 1995) and NOWHERE (DESPERATE PICTURES, 1997). their sound had this ethereal atmospheric quality with soaring waves of looped feedback winding and unwinding itself around a floating female/male singing tandem mixed way back in the mix. it was the perfect audio bed for films about largely centered around reckless young adults and their ever-evolving identities, attitudes and emotions that seemed to swell and dissipate. that was pretty much when i got interested in SLOWDIVE.
the documentary SOUVLAKI (PITCHFORK, 2015) is an oral history of the seminal SHOEGAZE band as described by members NEIL HALSTEAD, RACHEL GOSWELL, SIMON SCOTT, NICK CHAPlIN and CHRISTIAN SAVILL, as well as CREATION RECORDS founder ALLEN MCGEE, producer CHRIS HUFFORD and mixer/engineer ED BULLER. it reveals the process behind the development behind their transcendent SOUVLAKI (CREATION, 1993) album and how the recently dissolved romantic relationship between HALSTEAD and GOSWELL informed the record. pretty standard fair for music documentaries.
what resonated with me was how they describe the scene at the time, pre-GRUNGE and BRITPOP, when bands like THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN, SPACEMEN 3, COCTEAU TWINS and MY BLOODY VALENTINE were playing small gigs in rural ENGLAND. when the sound was still underground. the band itself was made of the decidedly INDIE HALSTEAD, who grew up in a household where music other than CLASSICAL was verboten, and two local GOTHS in GOSWELL and CHAPLIN; all agree on THE SMITHS. knowing that i can definitely hear a POST PUNK thread in their sound from GOTH ROCK bands like BAUHAUS (i.e. DANIEL ASH), JOY DIVISION, BERLIN-era DAVID BOWIE and SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES. they all used sound and looped effects to make deeply evocative music that resonated on both on an emotional and visceral level.
the documentary, like others in the PITCHFORK CLASSIC series, has the band members elaborate on standout tracks like "40 DAYS," "WHEN THE LIGHT HITS," "SOUVLAKI SPACE STATION," "DAGGER," and "ALISON." it also showcased BRIAN ENO's ability to serve as a catalyst for soundscapes that formed the basis for other songs as well. in ENO there is a figure that is purely interested in the creation of interesting sounds, period. he served as a catalyst during writing sessions with HALSTEAD, who hilariously and fortunately didn't know much about him at the time, and left. ENO's production techniques are fodder for another entry, so i wont go into that here, but needless to say his unconventional approaches and deep penchant for sonic experimentation is all over SOUVLAKI. it marks a new direction for the band which fascinatingly was influenced by DUB REGGAE and new AMBIENT acts at the time like APHEX TWIN. its all in there, you can definitely hear it.
in recent years the band has reformed and even released the stellar SLOWDIVE (DEAD OCEANS, 2017), but the SOUVLAKI record should not be missed by anyone. requisite listening for anyone interested in SHOEGAZE, INDIE ROCK, ALTERNATIVE ROCK or even AMBIENT or ORCHESTRAL music. really just great music for anyone moved by emotionally affecting sounds in general. at least it gets me every time, right back to being a teenager living in KUWAIT, an oppressive country with little freedom or ability for self-expression or creativity.
NOTE: also, the post-SLOWDIVE band MOJAVE 3 is also worth your time, although they are a completely different vibe altogether.
anything SHOEGAZE or DREAM POP, especially when it is well-constructed and executed, hits me right in the sweet spot. whether it is LUSH, NO JOY, SLOWDIVE, JAPANESE BREAKFAST, MY BLOODY VALENTINE or BEACH HOUSE, i enjoy discovering bands that make ethereal, impressionistic, guitar-based music that use feedback as a means of washing over and smothering you to blissful oblivion. that is a sonic experience i am always game for.
i cam across TORONTO's TALLIES recently and i could not be more taken by their intoxicating jangly yet echo-and-reverb-drenched sound. and then there is that voice. guitarist and vocalist SARAH COGAN is someone to look out for in the future.
great promising young band well worth checking out.
MONTREAL outfit NO JOY is the emblematic of the emotive depths available within the restless, waves of feed-backed sonic bliss within the genre of SHOEGAZE. listening to them makes me relive my introduction to MY BLOODY VALENTINE and SLOWDIVE all over again.
definitely check them out.
watch HERE for our most recent episode of DEER GOD RADIO where the playlist is all the SHOEGAZE movement and all it's ringing, droned-out, reverb-heavy, fuzzed-to-all-hell glory.
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO as well as other MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC shows like MAKE HER SPACE, NOWHERE FAST, and THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW are available here at the DEER GOD website.
tonight's episode of DEER GOD RADIO at 8PM on MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC is SHOEGAZE with all it's ringing, droned-out, reverb-heavy, fuzzed-to-all-hell glory.
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO as well as other MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC shows like MAKE HER SPACE, NOWHERE FAST and THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW are available here at the DEER GOD website.
there's something about JAPANESE BREAKFAST that really hits a sweet spot with me.
as i went on about before in my PATTI SMITH piece, i think women really have it difficult dealing with bullshit double standards regarding beauty when establishing themselves as artists in the music industry. what makes it worse is that there is a pressure EVERYONE feels in today's hyper-competitive digital marketplace to water-down your vision to the lowest common denominator, which is why you see many female pop artists resorting to tactics of being outrageous for the sake of getting attention, which only further reinforces the whole vicious cycle.
thats why it is always refreshing to come across female songwriters that have a vision and personality that doesn't feel group tested to death. i'd put JAPANESE BREAKFAST among a great lineage of female fronted rock groups that write their own material including that of WARPAINT, LA LUZ, GIRL IN A COMA, THE COATHANGERS, DUM DUM GIRLS, BEST COAST and LE BUTCHERETTES.
what separates this recent MICHELLE ZAUNER-led solo project to me is the vulnerability of her lyrics which deal with themes like loss and feeling inadequate, both topics i TOTALLY identify with. her 2016 debut PSYCHOPOMP was written as a way to come to terms with the passing of her mother and its a heartbreaking recording which painfully expresses the emptiness and detachment felt after losing a loved one. the album almost doubles as an effort to reconnect with her essence, much in the same way MASTODON did with their CRACK THE SKYE and THE HUNTER albums. her 2017 effort SOFT SOUNDS FROM ANOTHER PLANET finds her really delving into lilting delicate soundscapes that borrow heavily from SHOEGAZE that perfectly support her lyrics that concerned themselves with new beginnings and relationships, which makes sense given her recent marriage. she expresses the joy of new love as effectively as the sadness of sudden loss. all in all i can't wait to hear what she has next in store.
a dynamite songwriter that doesn't hold back from exposing her insecurities. how can you not be supportive of that?