Sign up for our free newsletter
Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.
While early-’90s Amerindie delivered the sonic equivalent of a bar brawl, the shoegazer scene across the pond produced the hangover music: droopy, slurred, more woozy than boozy. Guitar lines drifted and fuzzed. Voices melted into the mix. Drums skittered over the top or hid in dark corners. Books and effects pedals were the shoegazers’ only friends, and no band achieved a depression as naked and bleak as Slowdive’s. The Neil Halstead-fronted quintet’s songs just hung there—androgynous, anonymous, overexposed. By the band’s last release, 1995’s Pygmalion, its compositions were dominated by white space and tick-tocking beats. Slowdive had out-Enoed even U2, and it could have gone on to a successful career making down-tempo Volkswagen commercials. So it’s only fitting that German IDM imprint Morr Music has attempted a double-CD tribute comp. The label has built a reputation for stripping away electronica’s needless complexity and offering up simple machines for the bedroom-headphone set, from Mum’s elfin tinkering to Lali Puna’s slightly sinister glitch-making. Almost all of Blue Skied an’ Clear’s first disc succeeds in giving Slowdive’s tunes much-needed overhauls. Some tracks, such as Mum’s “Machine Gun” and Future 3’s “Alison,” merely warm things up, sounding more intimate and more romantic than the originals. But others draw out the feeling evoked by Slowdive at its best: getting crushed by…whatever. Styrofoam turns “Altogether” into the mellowest of comedowns, complete with klutzy beats and synthy harpsichord. Skanfrom transforms “Here She Comes” into what it should have been all along: credits music for a nerd-never-gets-girl ’80s teen movie. And Komeit opts to go over the top, swelling up “When the Sun Hits” with clanging cymbals and washes of fake strings. In the middle, the group drops into a minimal beat as the vocalists coo, “Mind games don’t leave me/You’ve come so far/Don’t lose me.” After all this good grief, listeners will undoubtedly need some uplift, so Morr has wisely included a second disc of originals from its roster. Without the constraints of paying tribute with covers, the artists adopt the shoegaze to their own, generally more upbeat purposes, whether it’s Manual’s sunshine-filled melody-surfing on “Summer Haze” or Ms. John Soda’s almost-synth-pop keyboard-plinking on “Solid Ground.” Still, when you hear Guitar’s swirling feedback on “House Full of Time,” you’ll think Halstead has gotten his band back together for one last sad song. —Jason Cherkis