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For certain fans, the high point of Slowdive’s return came a few days before the release of their eponymous comeback album in May 2017, when the band unveiled Avalon Emerson’s blissful ambient-house remix of “Sugar for the Pill,” a song that harkens back to the mid-’90s glory days when electronic shoegaze briefly flowered.
There were precedents to this brief crossover: My Bloody Valentine, the band to whom all shoegazers aspire, used sampled breakbeats on “Instrumental No. 2” and asked UK producer Andrew Weatherall to remix the already dance-influenced “Soon” for the Glider Remixes EP; A.R. Kane, another key shoegaze progenitor, took influences from house music and dub; and Cocteau Twins’ ethereal rush felt like Brian Eno’s ambient music made flesh. Meanwhile, Primal Scream’s epochal 1991 album, Screamadelica, had already proved that guitars and electronic music could mix. This spirit of experimentation played out in other early shoegaze releases, with Chapterhouse making use of sampled beats on “Falling Down,” and Curve audibly influenced by techno and industrial music.
Two records released in 1993 would cement the alliance between electronic music and shoegaze. Souvlaki, Slowdive’s second album, was a stunning fusion of ambient atmospheres and guitars, influenced by Aphex Twin, dub, and Brian Eno (who worked on the album), and was epitomized by the celestial summer-day-glide of “Souvlaki Space Station.” Then there was Seefeel’s debut album, Quique, a dazzling concoction of ambient textures played out on guitar and drums, blurring the line between man and machine.
When not mimicking electronics, many shoegaze bands commissioned contemporary electronic music producers to remix their work, their delicate vocals and celestial guitar lines proving ripe for electronic manipulation, such as Spooky’s remix of Lush’s “Undertow” and Aphex Twin’s astonishing take on Curve’s “Falling Free.” The pinnacle of this crossover occurred when Chapterhouse invited Global Communication to remix their second album, Blood Music, in its entirety, creating the ambient classic Pentamerous Metamorphosis. Chapterhouse would return the favor by providing guitars for “8:07” on Global Communication’s 76:14.
But by the mid-’90’s, shoegaze was a media bust and the fallout hit its leading lights hard (Souvlaki, in particular, was trashed). Slowdive were dropped by Creation after the release of their third studio album, Pygmalion, in 1995, while Seefeel went on hiatus the following year. Shoegaze was dead, and so too was its electronic counterpart.
The release of Blue Skied An’ Clear in 2002 was highly unexpected. The album, from fashionable electronic label Morr Music, was a tribute to Slowdive, and consisted of covers of their work and new songs influenced by their sound. German producer Ulrich Schnauss, who appeared on the album, released his own tribute to shoegaze the following year, A Strangely Isolated Place, while M83’s second album, Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts, would also drink deep from the shoegaze sound, laying the foundations for his global success and the eventual return of Slowdive, et al., as did The Field’s 2009 shoegazey album, Yesterday and Today. When Slowdive hit up Avalon Emerson for a remix, the circle was completed.