From the early formative years of Love Spirals Downward to their current incarnation, with name shortened to Lovespirals, the band has shape-shifted from a 4AD ethereal sound with thick, cottony soundscapes to complement the hypnotic, angelic vocals of Suzanne Perry to a more current smorgasbord of legendary influences such as blues and jazz, completed by the chameleonic voice of Anji Bee. The two versions of the same band have covered a lot of ground in their separate time-frames, both having added copiously to the band’s legacy.
Idylls, the band’s debut release on Projekt Records, was released in 1992, just as the ethereal dream-pop movement began to kick into high gear. It begins with echoed vocals layered over a soft bed of otherworldly melodies crafted from the mind of Ryan Lum in the lead-off track, “Illusory Me.” That track sets the tone for the rest of the album. With Lum’s use of gorgeously sculpted sound imageries utilizing acoustic guitars, rhythmic bass and percussion, keyboards, and electric guitar, and highlighted by the airy voice of Perry, the album’s music allowed one to soar into the spaces of their minds effortlessly. It is atmospheric, alluring, intriguing, and beautiful. Influentially, you’ll hear musical strains of Cocteau Twins (“Eudaimonia,” others), OMD (“Stir about the Stars”), and others as you move through the album’s 13 tracks (now 16).
On the reissued version of this album, there are 3 added bonus tracks. “Mediterranea,” originally heard on the Projekt retrospective (Temporal – 2000) for Love Spirals Downward is the first of the bonus tracks, and is a delightful add. The other tracks are a live version of “Scatter January,” here a softer, less effective version of the procession-like song found on this album in the original listing; and a Heavenly Voices remix of the siren-song, “Love’s Labour’s Lost.”
Ardor, released by Projekt Records in 1994, represents a definite change in sound, even if the core of the music remains. Ryan Lum was masterful in that he was able to introduce change while using a perfectly acceptable and familiar base of sound that endeared fans to their style of music. Ardor represented a turn of the screw adjustment in their ethereal style, reducing the ultra-dreamy aspects and introducing a more majestic component better using and thus enhancing Perry’s angelic vocals. Listen to “Avincenna,” and you get a feel for the grandeur of a Celtic song, or even for the richness of a Dead Can Dance song. Ryan Lum wisely advanced his musical art by steps as he prepared for the band’s next album, Ever.
The bonus inclusions for Ardor are “Oisin and Niam,” an unused outtake from the Ardor Sessions, an instrumental mix of the album’s “I Could Find It Only by Chance,” but named here as “I Could Find It,” and a live version of the album’s original of “Write in Water.” “Oisin and Niam” is a brilliant instrumental song that makes me somewhat sad that it was not included on the original album. It has a spirit all its own that makes it a special song; I’m quite happy to see its resurrection here, where it belongs. The instrumental mix of “I Could Find It” is inherently the same but with stripped-out vocals from the original “I Could Find It Only by Chance” making this a very interesting take on the song. The final bonus track is an endearing live acoustic rendition of “Write in Water.”
The remastering of the albums’ music is exceptional. Even the artwork on the single-fold glossy digipak packaging appears to be more striking. Overall, the reissue of both Idylls and Ardor more than merit their reacquisition.
Fans of shoegazer dream-pop will be rewarded. If you’re uninitiated in the works of Love Spirals Downward and Lovespirals (the 2nd incarnation of the band featuring mainstay Ryan Lum, and introducing the many vocal nuances of Anji Bee), and you like the dreamy ethereal music of the ‘90s especially music that is slightly reminiscent of Cocteau Twins, then these two Love Spirals Downward albums reissues will greatly satisfy.