Daniel Dylan Wray meets Slowdive at Primavera Sound
In the build up to my interview time with Slowdive I sit watching John Grant perform. The sky begins to shift into looming black and grey patches, which soon transform into total blanket coverage of black, ominous dread. Shattering forks of lightning spark in the sky and then thunder rumbles with such shuddering force it sounds like an angry giant has been awoken in the heavens. Within minutes, a festival that only moments earlier was soaked in beaming sunlight is being clattered with biblical rain. John Grant sadly loses half his audience as people run for shelter and it is here that I duck backstage to meet the newly reformed band that originated from Reading in 1989.
In the series of cabins that make up the dressing rooms and backstage areas of Primavera Sound, all that can be heard is the unrelenting thud and hammer of rain on the thin roofs and the quiet hum of last month’s Loud And Quiet front cover artist on the distant stage. The weather seems bizarrely fitting, as, for me, Slowdive’s music has always had such an elemental force to it. While it may not be this kind of black-sky-end-of-days style weather, there has certainly always been a cloudiness to their work, an atmospheric ambiguity and fogginess that fluctuates in tensions and densities leaving one never really knowing if they are about to experience a break in the clouds or witness them fall in on you. With Slowdive’s return to playing live again, that question and elemental feeling is as relevant as ever.
It’s almost twenty years since Slowdive released any material, 1995’s monstrously overlooked and underappreciated ‘Pygmalion’, an album that was essentially their resignation letter – handed-in crammed full of electronic loops, transcendental tectonic shifts and eerie, lucid ambience, this was done knowing full well that it would not meet the requirements of label boss Alan McGee, who had supposedly demanded a pop-hit from the group. Sure enough it did the job. The band were dropped after three LP’s on Creation and have not performed or released any material as Slowdive since. ‘Pygmalion’ was never even heard live outside of their practice space.