Rachel Goswell: Waves are Universal (4AD, 2004)
After a decade of waiting, fans of Slowdive and Mojave 3 are finally treated to Rachel Goswell‘s personal, open album Waves are Universal. This album is certainly a departure from Slowdive and Mojave 3, although, I can hear influences from her previous work here and there throughout the disc. This album shows an artists search for serenity, both through lyrics and also through use of nature and its sounds. It is a beautifully cogent album that holds together from the first note to the very last.
“Warm Summer Sun” opens the album with a melancholy feel that may shock the listener who is familiar with Slowdive and Mojave 3. This begins as an acoustic song with Rachel’s angelic vocals. It is apparent from the tone of the lyrics and of the song that this is an album of an artist ready to bear herself, her soul. In the midst of the song there is a bridge containing more Celtic type music and louder guitars. Lyrically, this song seems to be speaking about those side tracks in our lives that really aren’t worth it. Goswell longs for Autumn breezes and the ability to wash one’s problems away down flowing rivers. “Gather Me Up” introduces another element that goes throughout the album: nature. Birds are heard in the background throughout the track. “Gather Me Up” is about those moments in the morning when the birds meet you and either sunshine or clouds color your day. “No Substitute” is a slow tempo song that is more filled out than the two previously minimalist songs. This is a simple yet open love song about distance and longing to be with a loved one. Again, Goswell references those motions in our life that don’t amount to much when there are more important things which one ought to pay attention.
“Deelay” is a quieter song and brings other elements into the song like bongos, soaring guitar, and triangle in the percussion. “Deelay” speaks to those times in our lives when a relationship is shattered and there is fear of reconciliation or a new prospect for a relationship. The piano that sprinkles itself throughout the song is beautiful and really accents Goswell‘s vocals. “Plucked” is another beautiful acoustic song. This shows Goswell‘s singer-songwriter abilities at their finest. “Plucked” has flowing strings in the mixed at the bridge and they accompany Goswell throughout the rest of the song. Again, nature makes an appearance through bird sounds. Also, the theme continues of longing for another. Goswell croons “if you could just stay awhile.”
“Hope” begins with sounds of nature again and simple, stripped down percussion with acoustic guitar. Again, the things in life that are important are pointed out. Not the hussle and bussle of city life or work, but people in our life seem to be Goswell‘s focus. “Coastline” begins with interesting noises and is a fuller song than previous tracks. What is very cool about this song is that a lion’s roar is mixed in with the percussion and really brings an interesting element to the song. “Coastline” has a soulfull feel to it, bringing a new depth to the disc. As Goswell has found “Hope,” she now leads the listener down a beautiful beach of serenity that proclaims contentment in love and nature. This song, I think, reminds me most of the first Mojave 3 album and the influence from that experience definitly shows up from time to time in Goswell‘s work. “Shoulder the Blame” is a quieter song with acoustic guitar and minimalist percussion again. Perhaps Goswell is writing about those moments times in life when one’s own problems become so great that a confidant or lover is needed to take some of the pressure of your soulders. It’s a beautifully subtle song that leads the listener into a bluesy piece called “Save yourself.”
“Save Yourself” actually shows lack of the previous “Hope” found by Goswell. This is a very melancholy song about being mired in problems in a relationship that has one of the people broken and really needy. This song almost reaks of open and honest self-presurvation, baring on the selfish side. “Thru the Dawn” brings hope again from Goswell‘s lips. The storms and ups and downs of this album are turbulent and shaking, but Goswell is really open and honest on this disc. Frankly, it’s beautiful how open these songs seem. “Beautiful Feeling” expresses the idea of not withholding one’s dreams. Waking up to one’s dreams leads the listener into the anchor track of the disc “Sleeping and Tooting.” It is a happy track with a reflective tone. Looking back on all the growth Goswell has made, reflected throughout the album, is expressed. This track ties the album together nicely and leaves the listener with a sense of accomplishment on the artist’s part.
Rachel Goswell has crafted a beautifully open piece of work that shows her personal growth both musically and as a person. For some Mojave 3 and Slowdive fans, this album may be a shocker, but it is Rachel‘s personal vision and that vision is glorious.