Year By Year – 1995 – Slowdive – Pygmalion

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Tracklist:

Rutti

Crazy For You

Miranda

Trellisaze

Cello

J’s Heaven

Visions Of La

Blue Skied An’ Clear

All Of Us

The press hated it. Let’s get that out of that way at the beginning. With the UK in the midst of Britpop euphoria, there was no space – physically or culturally – for an album of ambient experimentation. Directly below the NME review of “Pygmalion” on February 4, 1995, lay a quarter page banner ad for The Flamingoes, a lowbrow London trio pushing a defiantly trad retread of sixties beat pop and third division new wave. These were the kind of bands that the weeklies were interested in. Slowdive – an intelligent, emotional anomaly – were history, in all senses of the word.” – Ian Watson (ianwatsonuk.com)

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While it was largely ignored upon its release, eventually “Pygmalion” came to be seen as an influence on a whole number of bands (some of which appeared on “Blue Skied N’ Clear” compilation, named after a track from “Pygmalion”). Much like My Bloody Valentine’s “Loveless” and Talk Talk’s “Laughing Stock”, it also became Slowdive swansong and is associated with final days of “shoegaze” movement.

“Pygmalion” was, essentially, a solo album by Neil Halstead, as the band was falling apart at the time and after its release, Slowdive were dropped by their label – Creation Records. Much of the label’s disappointment had to do with the fact that Creation expected a song-oriented album, while Slowdive delivered an album that hardly resembled their previous albums “Just For A Day” and “Souvlaki”.  Much of “Pygmalion” was beatless and featured loops and samples and the album contained only few tracks that resembled anything close to conventional songwriting appeared at the end of the album.

The album proved too be too much not only for Creation, but for band’s fans, as well. Lack of distinct pop melodies found on “Souvlaki” became an issue for many, but before the release of “Pygmalion” the band had already tried their hand at more abstract sounds via some of their EPs, although most of them also contained plenty of pop-oriented material. During the creation of “Souvlaki” the band also worked with music guru/producer Brian Eno, which might have been reason why they finally decided to produce a full-on ambient/experimental album. Apparently, a change in musical direction also cost them something, as “5 EP” recorded during sessions for Souvlaki proved to be too much for band members Nick Chaplin and Christian Savill and they left the band afterwards.

For a while, Halstead considered carrying on under the name Slowdive, but in the end decided use a new name – Mojave 3. Not suprisingly, M3 stylistical direction have nothing to do with either Slowdive circa-early 90s or Slowdive-circa Pygmalion, instead recalling work by bands like Cowboy Junkies and Mazzy Star, rather than the work of Brian Eno or Durutti Column.

Thus, it can be said that “Pygmalion”, was in a sense a bridge between two distinct generations/cultures – the one that was dying (shoegaze and bands like Ride and My Bloody Valentine) and the one that was about to be born (bands like Iceland’s Mum and Germany’s Lali Puna).

Castle Music label reissued “Pygmalion”, along with “Souvlaki” and “Just For A Day” in 2005. Unlike the reissues of two other albums, however, it contained no additional/bonus tracks. 2004 compilation “Catch The Breeze”, which came out on UK Sanctuary Medline label, contained 5 tracks from “Pygmalion”.

“Blue Skied N’ Clear” made its way onto the soundtrack to  a “Doom Generation”, 1995 movie by Gregg Araki, part of his Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy. The movie featured appearances by the likes of Skinny Puppy (whose lead singer cEvin Key broke his arm during the shooting of the movie), Perry Farrell (Porno For Pyros, Jane’s Addiction), Christopher Knight (Brady Bunch) and many others.

Blue Skied N’ Clear

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