Slowdive's Rachel Goswell Partners with Her Husband for New Project the Soft Cavalry

Publicity photo via Bandcamp

Another post-reunion project for Slowdive's Rachel Goswell. In collaborator Steve Clarke she has discovered a talented songwriter and married him, no less.

The Soft Cavalry
The Soft Cavalry

Bella Union

6 July 2019

Of all the reunions and reevaluations of '90s-era British bands that have occurred over the last half-decade, none has been more impactful than that of Slowdive. The Reading quartet, who bowed out in 1995 with little critical respect and no record contract, are now reaping belated critical and commercial success with an outstanding post-reunion album, not to mention headlining festivals and selling out tours in the process. Furthermore, co-vocalist Rachel Goswell, at one point more-or-less out of the industry, has now been involved in two worthy side projects.

Goswell teamed up with Mogwai and Editors members for Minor Victories, releasing an album in 2016. The Soft Cavalry, though, is even more personal. In 2018 Goswell married Slowdive tour manager Steve Clarke. With Clarke harboring a collection of songs and Goswell having the newfound clout, the Soft Cavalry was born. Clarke's brother produced the couple's self-titled debut. A true family affair.

Goswell's name and associations will surely be the main draw, but to be clear, The Soft Cavalry is first of all Clarke's project. He is the primary songwriter on all 12 tracks, plays multiple instruments, and is the lead vocalist. Although Goswell provided inspiration and guidance, her on-record contributions are limited mostly to backing-vocals, low in the mix at that, and the occasional duet. Goswell's presence on any recording is always a charming one, though, and it helps lend The Soft Cavalry a cozy, lived-in feel, even when the arrangements get dramatic. This is the opposite of "creative tension". It's the sound of two people who have no illusions about life's pains and disappointments but are happy to have found companionship in the middle of it all.

The Soft Cavalry is hardly all blissful, saccharine bubblegum pop. Only the melody-soaked but too-whimsical-by-half "Never Be Without You" comes close. For the most part, the album deals in spacious, mild psychedelia that recalls Division Bell-era Pink Floyd or even turn-of-the-millennium navel-gazers Doves. More than a couple of songs begin with plaintive keyboard and voice that are slowly buoyed by swells of strings, chimes, and other effects. When it is done well, which is most of the time, it casts something of a spell.

There are enough differentiation and melody to keep monotony at bay. "Home" is ominous and full of portent. "Spiders" creeps and crawls with goth-like tension. "Passerby" is lilting and majestic. Clarke's voice is thin and not too distinguished, but one imagines him singing everything at the edge of a very high precipice, overlooking a beautiful vista yet only a step away from peril.

The drama reaches a climax and also a catharsis on closing track "The Ever Turning Wheel", which overcomes that platitude of a title and lines about "finding my way back to you" by going into full-on skyscraping, wordless-chorus anthem mode. Overwrought, possibly. But, frankly, anyone who has made it that far into the album will want to crank it up to full volume.

Reluctance to pull back and ease off the portent was a weakness with Minor Victories, but not so here. Single "Dive", with its beguiling guitar arpeggio, has a decidedly hippy vibe, perfectly cool with just lying back and watch the great gig in the sky. "Bulletproof" is almost a straight-ahead rock track, with a surety and attitude The Soft Cavalry could use a bit more of. Then again, when the album gets so bold as to use Vocoder-processed vocals on "Careless Sun", it results in the album's one unmitigated misfire.

Clarke and Goswell, and The Soft Cavalry as a whole, seem so content, and at times so resigned, that the real trick is they don't drift off into full-on desolation, nihilism, or self-pity. "Only in dreams can I be as strong as I ought to be", Clarke sings at one point. It's a great line and a sentiment not a lot of songwriters would confess to. The Soft Cavalry isn't without its flaws, some clunky drum programming among them. But if Clarke can keep this up, his days as tour manager may be numbered.







A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Prof. Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.


The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.


Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.


Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.


HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.


Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.


Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.


'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.


'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.


Max Richter's 'VOICES' Is an Awe-Inspiring and Heartfelt Soundscape

Choral singing, piano, synths, and an "upside-down" orchestra complement crowd-sourced voices from across the globe on Max Richter's VOICES. It rewards deep listening, and acts as a global rebuke against bigotry, extremism and authoritarianism.


DYLYN Dares to "Find Myself" by Facing Fears and Life's Dark Forces (premiere + interview)

Shifting gears from aspiring electropop princess to rock 'n' rule dream queen, Toronto's DYLYN is re-examining her life while searching for truth with a new song and a very scary-good music video.


JOBS Make Bizarre and Exhilarating Noise with 'endless birthdays'

Brooklyn experimental quartet JOBS don't have a conventional musical bone in their body, resulting in a thrilling, typically off-kilter new album, endless birthdays.


​Nnamdï' Creates a Lively Home for Himself in His Mind on 'BRAT'

Nnamdï's BRAT is a labyrinth detailing the insular journey of a young, eclectic DIY artist who takes on the weighty responsibility of reaching a point where he can do what he loves for a living.


Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few Play It Cool​

Austin's Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few perform sophisticatedly unsophisticated jazz/Americana that's perfect for these times


Eleanor Underhill Takes Us to the 'Land of the Living' (album stream)

Eleanor Underhill's Land of the Living is a diverse album drawing on folk, pop, R&B, and Americana. It's an emotionally powerful collection that inspires repeated listens.


How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.


Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.


Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.