The fan in my bedroom is not altogether reliable. It occasionally cuts out without warning, like most conversations I’ve had on my cell phone. It’s as if the fan has an internal thermometer: If the temperature in my room slips just below 140 degrees, it sputters to a halt. I’m thankful, I guess, because I wouldn’t want to overwork the fan. I wouldn’t want my small, cave-like space to be livable, not even for a moment. Nay, that’d be asking too much. I just sit here, drink from the lukewarm bottle of beer on my makeshift desk, push sweat off my brow and resiliently toggle back and forth between finishing undergrad nonsense and jumping out the goddamned window.
But I’m trying not to concentrate on how hot it is in here. I’m trying to not to be miserable about my non-paychecks, my brother’s beer being gone, my summer courses and George W. I’m trying to forget all that. So I put on a little music from Rachel Goswell. She writes and plays wonderfully in Mojave 3 and her songs have brought me near tears in years previous. I don’t know why I thought a solo debut from her would make me feel better. It doesn’t. It reminds me about the all the other crummy stuff to be upset about.
Mojave 3 fans have anticipated her debut full-length, Waves Are Universal, for some time now, though it’s not quite what they expected. Goswell began delivering her solo stuff in EP format earlier this year on 4AD/Beggars Group, properly introducing herself as Rachel Goswell, Solo Artist. The angelic vocals are no longer coated in reverb, as they once were; Movaje 3 bandmate Neil Halstead makes no appearance; and no slide guitar follows her in the background. That time is past, friends; it’s just Goswell.
On Waves are Universal, Goswell has retreated us mostly to acoustic offerings, sometimes from a field, with birds chirping all about, to distract us from the moody lyrics. She shares some space with an accordion, like on “Gather Me Up,” where she defends her reasons why she’s gotta break things off with her significant other. She treads on familiar miserable ground on this one, and depending on whether or not you’ve been on the receiving end of such a sentiment, not even the glorious melody and warm accompaniment can save it from being depressing as all get-out.
“Plucked” opened her EP and finds a snug center slot on the full-length. She discovers that some promises “aren’t worth their weight in gold,” and a lush string arrangement, backed with crickets and a summery nature soundscape, swells in and leads the track to its untimely exit. Goswell’s experiments with sparse percussion and background sounds are well placed and even bring forth a Joni Mitchell feeling. And I barely miss the vocal effects and the slide guitar. Perhaps she was saving lead vocal duties for this record, as they were sadly absent from Mojave 3’s 2003 offering, Spoon and Rafter. After listening to Waves Are Universal, I can probably forgive her for not stepping up to the mike last year. In due time.