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For many artists, the periods of downtime between album cycles provide a much-needed respite. They can also be a chance for artists to explore creative outlets outside of songwriting. But when famed shoegazers Slowdive took a break in 2019, guitarist Christian Savill decided to keep working. His new dream-pop outfit Beachy Head puts an emphasis on introspection over atmosphere.
Recorded with Savil’s long-time collaborator, multi-instrumentalist Ryan Graveface of The Casket Girls, the album is studded with lush performances from the likes of Steve Clarke, Flaming Lips drummer Matt Duckworth, and Slowdive/Mojave 3 member Rachel Goswell. The end result is a record that combines fuzzed-out rock (the Teenage Fanclub-esque “Looking for Exits”), melodic synth-pop coated in keyboards and digital beats (“Hiddensee”) and dewy shoegaze (“Michael”).
Yet the songs on Beachy Head also have a wistful quality. Goswell’s vocals add a haunted, lonely vibe to the album—especially on the desolate “All Gone”—while the lyrics possess a palpable sense of disconnection and uncertainty. Opening track “Warning Bell” starts with the searing line, “Now I’ve touched you for the last time/ Creature of unhappiness.” The slowcore standout “October,” a song specifically set “in the fading light” of an autumn night, captures the ephemeral nature of one specific moment in a romance. Amid a backdrop of brittle guitars and whispery percussion, Savill sounds vulnerable but hopeful as he tenderly asks, “I see your eyes on me so bright/ How do I know your words won’t fade in the night?” Intimate and piercing, Beachy Head is one of the most compelling debuts of 2021.