Levitation Review: Slowdive, Survive, Mien

Shoegaze, synth wave, and a supergroup debut

The finest shoegaze usually overpowers the audience, inundating it with a monumental sonic wash of guitar. Slowdive is no typical dream-pop outfit. The Reading quintet prefers to entice rather than overwhelm, letting lush harmonies, ringing guitars, and a predilection for pop hooks dominate.

Slowdive (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

Taking the stage to a full house Saturday night at Stubb’s, the reunited Brits (1989-1995, 2014-present) kicked into full gear with the peppy, inaccurately named “Slomo,” the first track on last year’s exceptionally strong, self-titled fourth LP. Then it confounded expectations of an emphasis on new material by reaching way, way back to its first EP and eponymous theme song. Neil Halstead and Christian Savill’s guitars seemed in competition to see which could spiral and chime the longest.

Few bands outside the ambient make such extensive use of reverb and delay.

Halstead and co-singer Rachel Goswell kept their voices just on the edge of legibility, dropping hints rather than being straightforward. By ignoring convention – the common trick of shimmering verses/crunching choruses was employed sparingly – the group put its emphasis on the tunes themselves. Whether fan favorites “Catch the Breeze” and “Alison” or hits-in-waiting “No Longer Making Time” and “Star Rover,” Slowdive reprinted the book it wrote in the early Nineties with pop music that would stand on it own if its amps went dry and pedals disappeared.

Slowdive was immediately preceded by Survive, Austin’s answer to Tangerine Dream. Having seen its audience grow exponentially even before it hit the big time with the score to Stranger Things, the local quartet felt confident enough to fill an hour with ARP Odyssey melodies, programmed beats, whooshing electronics, but no Stranger Things theme. The crowd appreciated it all the same.

The evening opened with the debut performance from Mien, formed by Black Angels singer Alex Maas, Elephant Stone leader Rishi Dhir, Horrors keyboardist Tom Furse, and Earlies/Old Fire electronics guru John Mark Lapham. Joined by local multi-instrumentalist Thor Harris and drummer Robb Kidd, the band declared its worth. From motorik beats and repetitive melodies to Maas’ distinctive moan and Dhir’s jangling sitar, everything droned, finding hooks in the oddest places.

Kidd testified as MVP, driving each song to its heights with irrepressible energy and clockwork precision. One show into its new career, Mien proved itself more than the sum of its parts.

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Levitation 2018, Slowdive, Neil Halstead, Christian Savill, Rachel Goswell, Survive, Mien, Horrors, Tom Furse, Earlies, John Mark Lapham, Thor Harris, Robb Kidd, Black Angels, Elephant Stone, Rishi Dhir, Alex Maas

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