Revisiting Slowdive’s Pygmalion

Pygmalion - Slowdive

NME recently published a feature about 100 great “lost” albums, and this is the unabridged version of the blurb for Slowdive’s Pygmalion, their final album.

Pygmalion’ was mainly conceived by guitarist and songwriter Neil Halstead in his west London flat. He had become obsessed with electronic and ambient music and had started experimenting with sequencers and samplers on 1993’s 5 EP’. By the time of Pygmalion’, this process had been refined. Instruments are looped into infinity, while Halstead and Rachel Goswell’s vocals float in and out of the ether. Had it been released on Warp rather than the label that had just served up Digsy’s Dinner’ it would have been hailed as a classic, but it was savaged in the press; “ Trellisaze’, Rutti’ — what do these titles say to you, other than Slap me’,” sneered Melody Maker.

The article also includes interviews with Neil Halstead and Ian McCutcheon regarding the album’s origins and recording process, as well as the label’s reaction to the finished album. A fun bit of trivia: Creation Records head Alan McGee was trying to sign Oasis while Pygmalion was being recorded, and asked if Slowdive would let Oasis open for them at some live shows. Halstead’s reaction: “He gave me a demo, four songs I think, I have to say I thought it was a bit shit and told him so…”

I still remember the first time I heard Pygmalion, at Zero Street Records (the best record store that Lincoln ever had). The proprietor — a lanky fellow named Garth who shared my love for shoegazer pop, and was very gracious to a wide-eyed kid who would frequently pester him with all sorts of questions and requests — played the opening strains of “Rutti” for me, and I was instantly transfixed. Unfortunately, Pygmalion was only available as an import, meaning it was far more expensive than a regular CD. Best Buy, of all places, had a copy, so I asked a friend of mine who worked there to buy it using his employee discount. It’s been one of my favorite albums ever since.

Related: My review of Pygmalion.

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