In the music spotlight: Slowdive

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BY JEFF ELBEL | SUN-TIMES MEDIA

Shayne Blakeley has worked at beloved Oak Park record shop Val’s Halla since 2002. During that time, he has encountered many customers seeking to divine the taste of “the guy at the record shop.” English band Slowdive’s 1993 album “Souvlaki” is a personal touchstone to Blakeley’s youth, and remains his top recommendation. “‘Souvlaki’ is hands down, my favorite record,” he says. “Bar none.”

“I don’t suggest it to everybody,” he says. “Not everyone who walks through the door is going to appreciate it. There’s got to be a seedling. ‘Oh, you like My Bloody Valentine? You like Jesus and Mary Chain?’ Anybody who mentions an interest in moody and pretty music is a good candidate.”

Slowdive released three studio albums between 1991 and 1995, helping to define the shoegaze genre alongside bands like My Bloody Valentine, Ride, and The Catherine Wheel.

While somewhat less aggressive than that of its peers, Slowdive’s sonic identity is similarly rooted in chiming guitar, expansive vistas and shimmering echoes. The ambient music of Brian Eno is equally important to the mix as Cocteau Twins, the Cure and early Pink Floyd.

The band’s swan song “Pygmalion” arrived shortly before Slowdive splintered into other projects. The material went unperformed in North America following release. That unfinished business drew fans like Blakeley to July’s Pitchfork festival in Chicago. There, the newly reunited quintet debuted favorite “Pygmalion” tracks including the relaxed and sun-dappled “Blue Skied an’ Clear” and dreamy “Crazy for You” to an audience that had waited decades to hear them.

The set also featured key “Souvlaki” tracks like the hazy “Machine Gun,” a sweet-but-melancholy duet between Rachel Goswell and Neil Halstead. That versatility of sound and mood appeals to Blakeley.

“I find ‘Souvlaki’ to be very adaptable,” Blakeley says. “I can enjoy it when I’m in a very good mood, or in a romantic setting, or if I’m depressed and laying in the bathtub. When you’re talking about a desert island disc, it had better work in every scenario.”

Since Slowdive’s initial 1995 split, its influence has propagated through subsequent bands led by its principal members. Childhood friends and founding Slowdive members Halstead and Goswell continued with drummer Ian McCutcheon as the longer-lived Mojave 3. Guitarist Christian Savill formed Monster Movie.

Faithful fans at the Vic can expect Slowdive to dig deeper into its catalog of ethereal sounds than was possible at their festival set this summer.

Slowdive, with Low, 8 p.m. Oct. 30, The Vic Theatre, 3145 North Sheffield, (773) 472-0449. SOLD OUT (ages 18+over); victheatre.com.

Jeff Elbel is a local free-lance writer. Email: elbel.jeff@gmail.com

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