Swansongs usually signal the natural death of a career where a band is either running out of ideas or split by musical differences. 'Pygmalion' ended Slowdive's career but it also showed how they could construct another great album which was markedly different than their predecessors. Of course, the end of Slowdive was just as much the start of songwriting duo Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell's venture into desolate, more acoustically-driven work as Mojave 3. But that's another story.
'Pygmalion' is big on spaces; wide open spaces, where every twang of a guitar string is prolonged. It's immediately clear from the outset that this isn't an alternative pop record such as 'Souvlaki'; the first track, 'Rutti', lasts for ten minutes and sets the scene for a languid, ambient journey. Much of the material is made up of a repeated sequence of guitar chords or a vocal sample but most of the time the repeated melody is so gorgeous it deserves to be heard again and again. Reference points crop up here and there, for example, the cavernous production on 'J's Heaven' emulates the atmosphere of A.R.Kane's '69' album whereas 'Blue Skied An' Clear' - for its tense percussion and blissful chorus - is pure Talk Talk. Meanwhile, 'Crazy For You' - a looped Halstead vocal plus the most hypnotic of guitar figures - has a quality all of its own. So if 'Souvlaki' represents the adrenaline rush, 'Pygmalion' is the comedown.