Today's artists formed when they were mostly in their teens, initially lumped in with the remainder of the early-'90s British shoegaze scene; the band's later releases extended upon the likes of the Cocteau Twins and the more atmospheric sides of post-punk, and they closed out their first career with an excellent and misunderstood ambient album. Not to worry, they shed some members and reinvented themselves, signed to a new more serious label and build further on their last album, subtle, sparse, and somber adding more and more light into their music, de-stress and ..... N'Joy
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The band formed in Reading in 1989, and primarily consisted of Nick Chaplin (bass), Rachel Goswell (vocals, guitar), Neil Halstead (vocals, guitar), and Christian Savill (guitar). Several drummers played with the band, including Ian McCutcheon, Adrian Sell, and most notably Simon Scott who drummed on the first and second albums. Halstead was the band's primary songwriter. Scott left in 1994 and when Savill and Chaplin left the band after the release of Pygmalion, the remaining members renamed the band Mojave 3.
Slowdive was formed in Reading by Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell in October 1989. The two sang and played guitar, and had been friends since they were six years old. At a Sunday youth group, they began making music in an indie pop band called The Pumpkin Fairies, with bassist Mike Cottle and drummer Adrian Sell. When the Fairies disbanded, Slowdive formed with drummer Adrian Sell, and Nick Chaplin, his friend who played bass. A third guitarist named Christian Savill, previously of the band "Eternal", joined when he became the only person to answer an advert from the band. The ad called for a female guitarist, but Savill wanted to join so badly he offered to wear a dress. He was subsequently recruited. The name "Slowdive" was inspired by a dream Nick Chaplin experienced.
Signing with Creation, Slowdive's early singles received glowing press and chart placement. Their debut single, Slowdive, thinly veiled an indebtedness to the Byrds and My Bloody Valentine, with no traceable punk influence. (In fact, they were probably amongst the first batch of young rock bands to ignore the movement.) Just after Slowdive's recording, Sell left for university. Neil Carter subbed for less than a year, lending his skills to the follow-up single, Morningrise; former Charlottes member Simon Scott hopped on board prior to the band's third single, Holding Our Breath. The sleepy escapist psychedelia of both Morningrise and Holding Our Breath made significant impressions on the British indie chart.
Slowdive's debut album, Just for a Day, was released in September of 1991. Though it placed in the Top Ten of the indie chart, the press backlash was beginning to surface -- shoegaze was beginning to fall out of favor, and when bands put out a full-length, it's typically an ideal time for the British press to decide you're no good. Regardless, it was a fine debut. Months later, the Blue Day compilation appeared on the racks. It combined the bands first three singles, leaving off their version of Syd Barrett's "Golden Hair" and the instrumental version of "Avalyn."
When the band returned to the UK, they wrote a letter to ambient visionary Brian Eno and requested he produce their second album. Eno responded and told them he liked their music, but wanted to collaborate not produce. Two songs from the collaboration arrived on the ensuing album: "Sing", which was co-written with Eno, and "Here She Comes" where Eno played keyboards. The band's sound tightened for Souvlaki (named from a favorite Jerky Boys skit), released in mid-1993. (Initial copies included Blue Day as a second disc.) With assistance from Brian Eno on a couple tracks and an excellent mixing job from Ed Buller, it was a marked improvement from their earlier material. It wandered less, but didn't sacrifice their sense of woozy atmosphere for it.
The band's third and final studio outing was released in 1995. Pygmalion was essentially a solo ambient record by Halstead; the only detectable contributions were courtesy of Goswell's vocals and occasional patterns from McCutcheon. Within a couple weeks of release, Creation dropped the band. SBK had since given them the boot as well, but their U.K. label had been expecting a song-based affair. Slowdive had clearly turned into something separate from what they had been signed as. Taken further than the intelligent techno slant of the 5 EP, the record was often beatless. Unhappy with this shift, Chaplin and Savill left during the recording.
Between the recording and release of Slowdive's ambient Pygmalion, Neil Halstead began writing more song-based tunes to occupy down time. Weeks after being dropped by Creation, Halstead and the remaining members of Slowdive (Rachel Goswell and Ian McCutcheon) recorded six demos within three days, much of it live without overdubs. Their manager brought the tape to 4AD head Ivo Watts-Russell, who immediately gave the trio money to record more material. Feeling that the direction was too removed to retain the Slowdive moniker, they christened themselves Mojave, only to add "3" later for legal purposes. Signed to 4AD, the six demos and three later-recorded songs made up 1996's Ask Me Tomorrow. Subtle, sparse, and somber, the record drew likenesses to Mazzy Star and Cowboy Junkies, along with some debatable country references. Not necessarily country, it sounded like unplugged Slowdive with a slight twang. The band gigged for several months, including a package 4AD tour in the U.S. with Scheer and Lush, dubbed the "Shaving the Pavement Tour."
The shift away from Slowdive was completed with 1998's Out of Tune. More upbeat in nature, it also featured more involved arrangements. Former Chapterhouse guitarist Simon Rowe was officially added as a member, as well as Alan Forrester on keys. Their full-time presence helped round out the band's sound. At this point, Mojave 3 -- and Halstead's classicist songwriting in particular -- began to earn favorable comparisons to Bob Dylan, Nick Drake, and Neil Young. Excuses for Travellers followed two years later, continuing in similar fashion as something of a hybrid of their first two LPs. Three years came and went -- and were broken up by a Halstead solo album -- before the release of Spoon and Rafter, an album that was recorded throughout the course of a year, at the band's studio in Cornwall. The next bandmember to release a solo record was Goswell, whose 2004 release Waves Are Universal was met with critical and commercial indifference. Perhaps the whole group was feeling this wave of indifference too, because their next record, 2006's Puzzles Like You, threw their formula out and recast them (quite successfully) as an uptempo pop band with the occasional country-influenced ballad. They are currently on hiatus, partly on account of Goswell developping a severe tinnitus after a virus infection in 2006 then in 2010 she gave birth to a severely disabled child.
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After the spare, delicate power of Slowdive's final album, Pygmalion, with influences like the Durutti Column and Brian Eno readily apparent, it would have made perfect sense for Mojave 3 to continue in that vein. Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell had a much different idea in mind, though, and Ask Me Tomorrow, though even further away from Slowdive's shoegaze beginnings, is just as intoxicatingly intriguing. Arguably it remains the group's high point, flashes of inspiration here and there; as the band grew more straightforwardly authentic and less swathed in an aural cocoon, much of their uniqueness went with them. Here, though, both Goswell and Halstead -- along with drummer Ian McCutcheon (more often than not using brushes), pianist Christopher Andrews, and some guests -- tapped into a drowsy beauty that ran parallel to the burgeoning alt-country movement without completely sounding like it yet. Slowdive's cover of "Some Velvet Morning" is a good reference point -- everything is swathed in echo still, but the emphasis on slide guitar twang and a gently down-home feeling, plus some occasional soft cello, makes the album a hushed masterpiece. Andrews' piano often takes the lead, further emphasizing Mojave 3's own approach, while the Goswell/Halstead vocal combination suggests a cousin to the killer Chris Eckman/Carla Torgeson blend in the Walkabouts. Ask Me Tomorrow starts and ends with its best songs; "Love Songs on the Radio," also the band's debut single, sets the tone perfectly, Goswell's sweet but strong voice and Halstead's guitar in perfect balance. "Mercy," meanwhile, concludes things on a dramatic, powerful note; without completely exploding, it's the most fiery song hands down, with Andrews' steady, doom-laden piano and the ever more strung-out guitar the bed for an at once soothing and warning vocal duet, Goswell and Halstead closing the album with a final a cappella singing sigh.
Mojave 3 - Ask Me Tomorrow (flac 221mb)
01 Love Songs On The Radio 5:48
02 Sarah 3:44
03 Tomorrow's Taken 5:37
04 Candle Song 3 5:26
05 You're Beautiful 3:06
06 Where Is The Love 4:38
07 After All 3:33
08 Pictures 4:21
09 Mercy 4:56
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Mojave 3 likely grew tired of the words "Mazzy Star" being thrown into the otherwise encouraging reviews of their sparkling, twinkling Ask Me Tomorrow. So, the band keeps the sound but expands the style to incorporate gaping helpings of Dylan, from Blonde on Blonde to Nashville Skyline. Bullseye. Only one song is as amazing and heart-tugging as Ask Me Tomorrow's "Love Songs on the Radio" and "Candle Song": "Give What You Take" actually reconfigures Slowdive's propensity for waves of luscious hooks, led by Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell's still otherworldly, wonderfully brother-and-sister-like (actually they are an ex-couple) harmonies. One can easily take issue with their decision to cut Goswell's spectacular throat out of the lead vocal equation after seven years, but as she remains a force on Halstead's choruses, singing countermelodies at his side, it's hard to quibble too much. The songs tickle by, softly floating timelessly, tirelessly, and the vocals are like a pillow for your head as you listen, enraptured, on the single "Some Kinda Angel," another first-rate piece of unhurried pop, and the more gripping "Keep It All Hid" and the gurgling "Baby's Coming Home." Not so much laconic as measured, the Mojave five perch on the precipice of masterpiece, with subtle keyboards, an absolutely sorrowful lap steel on "Give What You Take," and tasteful brass on two others. Out of Tune may well be the least English record made in those isles -- the cover shot of surfers hints that California is the place.
Mojave 3 - Out Of Tune (flac 241mb)
01 Who Do You Love? 3:29
02 Give What You Take 4:25
03 Some Kinda Angel 3:44
04 All Your Tears 4:37
05 Yer Feet 4:15
06 Caught Beneath Your Heel 6:12
07 Keep It All Hid 3:56
08 Baby's Coming Home 5:35
09 To Whom Should I Write 3:23
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Who expected a big stylistic turnabout? Probably nobody. Album number four, Spoon and Rafter, is another worthy addition to the discography of Mojave 3, whose Neil Halstead is steadily building a swelling stockpile of charming, bittersweet, easygoing songs that warrant almost all of the comparisons -- to icons of '60s British folk and American country-rock alike -- that have been drawn throughout the years. Rachel Goswell plays her most reduced role to date, chiming in, as always, with invaluable background vocals, yet she contributes no lead turns this time -- not even one. This one irritating issue does contradict the fact that the album feels more like a natural and collaborative effort than the others. Perhaps that feel has something to do with the fact that it was recorded in their new studio, allowing them to work at their own pace. The songs remain simple, yet the interplay between the instruments is more intricate and lively than before, with minor touches -- twinkles of glockenspiel, splashes of Moog, quivers of theremin -- falling with ease into the snug mix. As consistent as the group has been with its sound since its second album, the feather-light debut is beginning to seem more and more like Slowdive's swan song.
Mojave 3 - Spoon and Rafter (flac 292mb)
01 Bluebird Of Happiness 9:15
02 Starlite #1 4:55
03 Billoddity 4:18
04 Writing To St. Peter 5:57
05 Battle Of The Broken Hearts 6:38
06 Hard To Miss You 2:50
07 Tinkers Blues 5:09
08 She's All Up Above 3:38
09 Too Many Mornings 3:16
10 Between The Bars 5:01
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