I have waited a damned long time to hear solo material from Slowdive and Mojave 3 member Rachel Goswell and for her to do work on her own beyond that with Neil Halstead's bands to which she adds more to than she can imagine.

She played electric guitar in Slowdive, co-shared the joint lead vocals and helped to give them their brilliant ambient feel which ten years after their break-up is still felt today in bands such as Mogwai. In Mojave 3, she has been confined to playing bass and singing backing vocals, but all her fans have wanted to see a lot more of Rachel live and on the band's records.

Now she has both an EP, 'The Sleep Shelter', and an album, 'Waves are Universal', out under her own name. Neither are the records I expected, as the music on both discs is very gentle and fragile and totally unlike anything by either Slowdive or Mojave 3. Despite having come out on Mojave 3's regular label 4AD, the sleeves also don't look anything like a regular 4AD release, as rather than featuring an abstract photo, they both have pictures of paintings of flowers on the sleeves.

The work on both these records has been written by Rachel, Joe Light and David Naughton. A good amount of it features softly strummed guitar lines over the top of which Rachel's soft vocals are draped.

'The Sleep Shelter' opens with 'Plucked', also included on the album, which has appropriately plucked guitar strings, an elegant vocal and is finished off with some string arrangements. 'Sleepless in Tooting' which also ends the album, is more upbeat and has a country vibe with Rachel adding a Beth Orton style vocal.

The guitarwork on 'Flying with Gene' reminds me of the intro to R.E.M.'s 'Drive' , while Rachel's vocal on this reminds me of Tracey Chapman. It speeds up halfway through to a sing-a-long pace. 'Sticking with Grace' features electric, rather than acoustic, guitars and you can imagine when listening to it a summer-filled field with Rachel dancing through it singing along to this. The middle 8 sounds very perky in a mid 70"s way.

'Come Rescue Me', the last track, sounds as if Rachel is doing an 'Unplugged' session and here is the only time she actually plays guitar on the EP. As on most of the tracks here, it is all sang in great female singer/songwriter tradition. The EP ends with a celtic vibe and with bagpipes and a cello, both of which are absolutely lovely.

'Waves are Univeral' kicks off with church bells and laid back vocals sung again in a Beth Orton way. 'Warm Summer Sun' and 'Gather Me Up', the first two tracks, are both again calming and elegant, while 'No Substitute', the third track, is more upbeat with electric instruments. More poppy in feel, it is an album
highlight.

'Deelay ' is again graceful. After 'Plucked' there is 'Hope', which
which once more is another of Rachel's Beth Orton style numbers.

'Coastline'is the loudest track here and has a vocal that sounds like something Rachel would have sung in Slowdive, but without the distortion. For the one and only time on the record, the instrumentation here is reminiscent of Mojave 3's

'Shoulder the Blame' is a sad little number, while 'Save Yourself', has Peter Buck style guitar and a Cowboy Junkies style vocal,and is laidback and cool. 'Thru the Dawn' and 'Beautiful Feeling' are soft and quiet with strong arrangements. 'Beautiful Feeling' also features some flute before the album ends with 'Sleepless in Tooting'.

On the whole then, not the records we were expecting but a very pleasant breath of fresh air. Thank you, Rachel. We have waited a long time for this and are not disappointed.












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