June 28, 2004

Rachel Goswell "Waves are Universal"

Beautiful. Uplifting. Heavenly. Like an angel. Blissful. Ethereal.

Over the past fifteen years, these adjectives have been used to describe the singing of Rachel Goswell. From the blissed out rock of Slowdive to the gentle, countrified folk of Mojave 3, Goswell's reputation is one that's preceded her--and rightfully so. Her role in Mojave 3 has been one of diminishing returns--it's hard to even think of her as a member of the band anymore, as she never sings anything more than backing vocals. Waves Are Universal, her debut album, was not a surprise, considering Neil Halstead released his own solo record a while back.

It's no surprise, then, that Waves are Universal sounds exactly like you'd think it to sound. Considering that it was released on longtime label 4ad is no surprise, either. Though hailed as an album that is 'carving new and different lines,' there's absolutely nothing new about it--for either the label or for Goswell. Listening to the album, I'm almost instantly reminded of not only Mojave 3, but also of several of 4ad's fine singers, including a little bit of Kristin Hersh, a smidgen of Lisa Germano & Kendra Smith and a whole lot of Heidi Berry--especially on the jazzy yet autumnal "Deelay" and the utterly warm and friendly "Plucked." At times she sings in a dark and husky manner, and sometimes she's really lighter than air. Waves are Universal has an overall country/folk feel that's also quite rewarding.

Is it the most original record I've heard this year? Not by a longshot. Going in, you know what you're getting into, and it didn't offer me anything I wasn't prepared to hear. As records go, it's as unexpectedly unsurprising affair from a talent who has never really been given the chance to shine on her own until now, and though the record isn't anything new for Goswell, it's still an excellent display of her talents. Cool and bleak with a little bit of hope, Waves Are Universal is a mood record that will move you in the ways that you'd expect Rachel Goswell to move you. Heck, this record is inappropriate for sunny days, coffee-free moments and temperatures above 85.

And that, my friends, is perfectly fine with me.

--Joseph Kyle

Label Website: http://www.4ad.com

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