Why Slowdive’s Post-Rock Masterpiece Pygmalion Still Matters

Oliver Ackermann (A Place to Bury Strangers)

Listening to all sorts of music and then finally discovering Slowdive was like you stepped into this other world. The music was just so intense, and beautiful, and otherworldly. When we would be driving around smoking weed or hanging out and walking around the forest, It was just the perfect soundtrack. You feel like you’re in space hurtling through the universe. That’s what Slowdive’s music even sort of sounds like. I was totally hooked.

They would create these really huge stereo spaces. It would even be scary at times, where there’d be these pounding drum sounds like they’re coming from miles away then slowly getting closer and closer. I love music where you’re not even quite exactly sure what’s going on. It sounds like it’s being played by people from another dimension or something. That’s what Slowdive did so well.

What people always want to do sort of as an artist is take things to some other place, and that’s I think what Slowdive was doing with Pygmalion. They were young kids at the time before that, figuring out even how to create music. I think some of that earlier music was hiding behind some of the effects. Pygmalion finally homed in on the sounds they had been striving for at times, and through the feeling of it and not just some crazy effect. I really loved that record.

Adam Jones (S U R V I V E)

I was totally, deeply enveloped by Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and Tortoise, and bands like Stars of the Lid, or Labradford. So I fell into Slowdive, and Pygmalion felt a lot more like the ambient, post rock that I identified most with. Slowdive, in particular Pygmalion, was a big influence on me. I was still a little bit further off from appreciating a lot of classic pop music, and Brian Eno’s production brilliance, and stuff like that. So out of all their catalog, Pygmalion was the one that spoke to me, because it was the least pop.

I know that this is probably something that people say all the time, but I used to throw on Pygmalion when I was going to sleep, you know? And it took me a while to actually be pretty familiar with all the songs on it, because I would always pass out before it would finish. I thought that was really great about it. It just sort of became the quintessential Slowdive album for me, personally. I love how it starts off with a 10-minute song. “Rutti” sets the pace right away. I love their self-titled album, too; they’ve been able to more truly capture their essence as a band with their newest album. But Pygmalion still has a more personal attachment with me.

Harmony Tividad (Girlpool)

So much music I like is often lyrically or melodically focused, and their songs are great at both. But what I mainly turn to Slowdive for is a change of mindset. I love the atmosphere their songs create. The writing and the production create a universe to check out to. It feels otherworldly in some ways, like it’s super visceral and imaginative and kind of spacey in a way that’s rare.

I think I subconsciously incorporate their music into my world. I like that it’s so feeling-based, that’s really special. Sometimes when you’re writing a song, it’s less about thinking “Where should this go now?” than “Where does it feel like it needs to go?” There’s an element of intuition that their music masters. There’s this book about how our body is mostly water and music affects us because of all this water in our bodies and when they do science experiments, water reacts differently. So to me it’s like that. I feel like Slowdive is intuitively interacting with my body in way that’s otherworldly.

Pygmalion is a beautiful record. The fact that it was polarizing can sometimes be the most powerful thing. What’s interesting about today’s pop culture is that now, the most polarizing things sometimes become the most sensationalized and popular, but historically things that are different are considered freaky or off-base. Today it’s not consistently always different, but I feel like more often than not, when people take a strong change of direction, they’re rewarded and congratulated for it. Maybe people just failed to have perspective on the scope of what Slowdive were trying to make.

Michelle Zauner (Japanese Breakfast)

That was the greatest tour I’ve ever been on. Neil and Christian are just such phenomenal guitar players and their tones are so amazing. But they’re also the most humble people. They were so welcoming and so warm to us. I remember the first day, we played this beautiful theater in Minneapolis-St. Paul, and we had never played over a thousand-capacity venue. It was this really intense moment to go in and watch them soundcheck. They went 10 to 20 minutes over, which is so standard, and for every single one of them to come up and introduce themselves and apologize to me is such a rare thing. They had no pretentiousness at all. All of them would watch our shows from side stage. They bought us a bottle of champagne on our last night together. We hung out and all went to karaoke afterwards. It was just so wonderful to see that you can have that long of a career and make such legendary music and still just be a really good person. It’s so easy to get jaded in this industry and it really gave me so much hope for having a long-lasting career. If there’s any model for a band, I definitely want to have that kind of attitude of just like, “If Slowdive can be that kind to you and generous to you, that’s how you treat an opening band.”

I love Rachel’s voice so much. I feel lame because I’m not really talking about their music very much, which means a lot to me. They have the most beautiful, lush, ethereal songs. I could just die in any of them. But I really want to stress how wonderful they are to tour with and I just learned so much from them as people.

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