With their satisfying sophomore release, Love Spirals Downwards begin a shift toward more ambient tunes (three of them, one without vocals, fit perfectly within that realm), no doubt partly due to Ryan Lum's interest in artists like Steve Roach and Brian Eno. On some tracks, the duo also begins a folksier approach, one that is natural given that such numbers make for more concert-friendly fare and keep the band from being pigeonholed. The gritty dream pop guitar is still in the mix, although one can sense the subtle shift to the less studio-based sound that would come with Ever. Rating: 4.5/5 - Bryan Reesman
A review from B-Side Magazine:
Romance! Despair! Trauma! Sounds good to you? It sounds good to me too and mixed together by Love Spirals Downwards it sounds even better. Suzanne Perry and Ryan Lum once again create a world without boudaries, taking in subtle sounds and sharp senses, morphing them into music and presenting them back for our listening pleasure. Seductive and sad, full of longing and lust, this album can't help but satisfy your cravings for music that captivates with a hit of decay wafting about the edges. Like visiting ancient ruins on a sunny day, Ardor captures your imagination and it's up to you what you let them do with it. My suggestion: surrender to them!
A review from Carpe Noctum:
Starkly elegant displays of human will and desire paving a natural path straight through the center of your mind's eye via Suzanne's rich honest voice and Ryan's perfectly placed guitar textures and rhythms. -Aaron Johnson
A review from Empty Corner (UK):
The second album from melancholy bunch Love Spirals Downwards and a splendid affair it is too. Suzanne Perry's heavenly vocals mix with a lushly produced backdrop of melody and ambience for fifty gorgeous minutes of sound. There's nothing taxing about this music, nothing particulary experimental, but where there is I could happily listen to it for years to come. With the added bonus of the last track "Tear Love From My Mind" penned by Mr. Rosenthal himself, this is simply introspective, intelligent "pop" (and I use the word reservedly) having more than a hint of sadness buried within it. Exquisite.
The re-release of Idylls and Ardor close to fifteen years later shows how these beloved albums have stood the test of time. And even altered the course of the genre so that many new ethereal/shoegazer bands are now compared to Love Spirals Downwards rather than the Cocteau Twins, to whom they bear only little resemblance after all. Idylls was nearly perfect the first time, with crisp bright guitars, soaring effects, and the captivating voice of Suzanne Perry, but musician Ryan Lum applied the polish of remastering to make it shine still brighter. The new version also includes one of the band's best, "Mediterranea." Ardor is more painterly, warmer but more melancholy, with the lovely song "Write in Water" in both studio and live versions. - Carolee
One of the songs that really stuck out for me on Projekt200 was Love Spirals Downwards's "Write in Water." Upon giving it a few listens I came to the conclusion that I needed more Love Spirals Downwards in my life. Perhaps someone at Projekt was reading my mind, because a few months later the label reissued the group's first two albums, Ardor and Idylls. Both feature lush, ethereal arrangements of guitar, keyboards, and programming from multi-instrumentalist Ryan Lum and the all-encompassing, heavenly vocals of Suzanne Perry. While both albums work the same style, each has its own unique flavor; as such, it's impossible to pick a favorite between them. Beautifully remastered and laden with bonus tracks, Idylls and Ardor are essential additions to your rainy day musical rotation. -Jack
Somewhere between the ecclesiastical sounds of gaseous Ethereal and the shoegazey alignment with Indie-dance lies this sedate album, so you’ll know from that whether this is going to appeal.
I know it’s something of a cliché to suggest but I think half the original early Indie etherealists once heard ‘Pearly Dewdrops Drop’ and thought ‘I can do that!’ and that’s what created the first undercurrent, where delicate female vocals rolled like delirious flotsam over casual incoming waves of guitar, and pieces of music took over from songs, per se, ushering in gently artistic moods and high quality musical wallpaper, lapping unobtrusively at your subconscious; undemanding but blissful.
‘Will You Fade’ is sweet, it’s line about ‘I grow giddy’ almost sounding, and serving, as that old ‘Can you dig it?’ refrain when the swirl kicks in. From sumptuous and seemingly lazy, it has a gritty guitar outburst offering a bizarre contrast. ‘Sidhe’ then goes for high arched windows and sun through treetops, a case of golden splendour.
‘Write In Water’ then reverts to the feeling of the first track, which instantly highlights the limitations of many Ethereal bands, especially of the Indie kind who aren’t bound by a desire to create atmosphere but rely on their most obvious sound., You either react to it, and sink further inside, or you don’t. Personally I find myself circling records like this curiously, and the more time goes by the more I tend to forget it’s happening. It’s lovely, gracious company, but that’s scarcely enough for me. Ryan Lunn’s guitar usually pulls me back into focus, while Suzanne Perry’s vocals soaring and sighing usually evaporate on my radar, making it hard to concentrate.
Of course this can make you seem like a snotty bastard, when you take the tracks individually. The diaphanous ‘Avincenna’ is undeniably exquisite, although I have no idea what the glossy vocals are on about, and the undemanding strolling music is the sort it’s hard to think having a purpose apart from for relaxing to. Nobody rushes home thinking, ‘I need my Ethereal, and I need it now!’ You pop it to create an atmosphere, to enhance your feelings, not as a thoughtless balm. Don’t you? I’m sure if most of us were to be honest we’d admit the lighter modern ethereal is our version of background music.
That’s pretty much how I regarded their ‘Idylls’, although I do find some tracks here with more intriguing depth. By their standards the diminutive ‘Mirrors A Still Sky’ is quite wiry, while ‘Subsequently’ starts very light, and but for the guitar you’d be scraping it off the ceiling, the vocal stunning, the music hypnotising. The vocals sit unremarkably on the interesting guitar opening to ‘I Could Find It Only By Chance’, meaning something which could have ratcheted up the possibilities in their sound is kept down, controlled. ‘Kykeon’ has interesting acoustic strengths, and is truly transporting, while the demure, shadowy ‘Depression Glass’ just seems content vibrating on the spot, but ‘Sunset Bell’ goes for ambient mist, which is strangely sublime, and ‘Tear Love From My Mind’ is far more direct and touching.
The bonuses on this disc ‘Oisin and Niam’ and the instrumental of ‘I Could Find It’ apparently came form the original sessions in 1993, and tingle like weary rain, joined by a live version of ‘Write in Water’ recorded two years later, which is another plainer and more successful embrace.
A splendid experienced, on all levels, it’s an interesting record, it even pull you about a little, it’s just that coming back into view after all this time it throws up so many questions rather than answers.
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. -Matt Rowe
A review from Pandemonium:
Ryan Lum weaves the textures and atmospheres above which Suzanne Perry's vocals serenely float, wordlessly evoking a dreamy otherworld of bliss. -Jo-Ann Green
A review from Permission Magazine:
When discussing the ethereal gothic sound, one can't help but mention Love Spirals Downwards latest effort, Ardor. The album makes its intense entrance with the churning, beautifully stellar " Will You Fade," and for the nest 55 minutes, takes the listener on a delicately passionate, otherworldly journey to the very depths of human emotion. Musically, the band bears much resemblance to the bands from the old 4AD sound (specifically the Cocteau Twins), yet Love Spirals Downward manages to do more than just wear their influences on their sleeve. The striking vocals of Suzanne Perry sound like they were captured in a low-lit cathedral or mystical shrine deep in the night, adding impeccably to the richly swirling guitars of Ryan Lum. The emotional wrestling present in both the music of Lum and the vocals of Perry is captivating and can be evidenced just by looking at the titles alone: ("Depression Glass," "Tear Love From My Mind"). Of the 11 tracks present, the standouts are "Write In Water" with its dreamy harmonies, and the slowly climaxing guitar of "Will You Fade; however, even the standouts don't overshadow the solidarity of the album as a whole. Each of the individual songs piece together to produce that "heavenly melancholy" perfect for late night drifting and moody contemplations and methinks that Ardor has established Love Spirals Downward as a staggering and potential standardbearer in the ethereal gothic scene today.
The legendary ethereal act's best album, available again with bonus tracks.
Even if the rest of the album was substandard, Ardor would still be a near masterpiece thanks only to the presence of "Write in Water." Often copied but never quite surpassed, the song's languid guitar strums, celestial effects washes, and gorgeously bittersweet vocals epitomize the very best of the '90s ethereal scene. There's plenty more to Love Spirals Downwards' second album than "Write in Water" though. Less overtly gothic than their debut, Ardor sees the group exploring a little of everything, from shimmering pop to sleepy ambient, all within the context of Ryan Lum's languorous instrumentation and Suzanne Perry's lilting soprano. "Will You Fade" begins the album with blissful, hypnotic strums, then "Sidhe," written by Projekt label owner and Black Tape for a Blue Girl founder Sam Rosenthal, answers the first song's question by fading into bleary guitar drones. While "Avincenna" and "I Could Find It Only by Chance" are more than melancholy enough for goth fans, Lum and Perry are less dark than wistful. "Subsequently" is delicacy embodied, gossamer vocals and elegantly finger-picked chords adrift in clouds of sustain, and "Kykeon" approaches the sublime in its restrained pace, the silences between the chords as potent as the tones themselves. A second vocalist, Jennifer Wilde (now of Liquid State), appears on two tracks: the lovely "Depression Glass" and the sleepy ambient composition "Sunset Bell," offering a different vocal timbre, but no shortage of haunting beauty. "Tear Love from My Mind" finishes the album with dreamlike washes of guitar and subtle vocal harmonies; especially clear on this remastered edition, the song's production is exquisite, a foreshadowing of the recording techniques Lum would later explore with Lovespirals. This reissue also features several bonus tracks; besides the instrumental mix of "I Could Find It" and an extra delicate live recording of "Write in Water," longtime fans will be thrilled to hear "Oisin and Niam." Written during the Ardor sessions but never actually included on the album, it's a slightly lighter-feeling piece, thanks to an almost upbeat rhythm beneath the layers of drifting guitar. Delirious and beautiful, but never cloying or twee, Ardor is perhaps Love Spirals Downwards' magnum opus. Ethereal fans are lucky to have it available again. -Matthew Johnson
A review from Revolt in Style:
Haunting, lush, beautiful. Even played on my cheap boom box complete with blown speaker, this new release by Love Spirals Downwards had a soothing effect on my soul.
For those who missed them on their debut, here comes a re-release of the “Ardor” album which is here completely remastered and presented with 3 bonus tracks. The typical sound of Love Spiral Downwards is well captured on this album with a great bunch of melancholic and dreamy passages topped by the very ethereal voice of Suzanne Perry. Heavenly voices was the term to described this kind of music at the time and labels such as Hyperium or Projekt really helped to develop a scene for those bands. Love Spiral Downwards is (or rather was since they now work under the Love Spiral name) undoubtedly one of the strongest acts on the American scene together with Black Tape For A Blue Girl (at least they share the same musical influences and sometimes evoke Cocteau Twins or some other 4AD band). On “Ardor” you can find the unavoidable “Write In Water “ which is also featured here in a live version as bonus but also numerous slow and relaxing atmospherical pieces. (CF:6/7)CF
A review from The Dekalb Collegian:
Heavenly melancholy perfect for late night drifting and moody contemplations. -Ben Norris
A review from The Orange County Register:
Soaringly romantic and hauntingly brooding, Ardor practically celebrates and elegant brand of Euro-cool. -Cary Darling