The Soft Cavalry

The Soft Cavalry

Bella Union, 2019

REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer


The Soft Cavalry is Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell and her husband Steve Clarke, a musician with way less star-power. For their self-titled debut, it might be natural to assume that this duo is going to be fronted by Goswell, with Clarke playing the supporting role in the back, but it is the exact opposite.

After having played for several acts and having managed Slowdive in 2014, The Soft Cavalry is all about Clarke showcasing his creativity and Goswell helping him out in the process. Together, they couldn’t have done a better job.

The Soft Cavalry seems like a dream album that one always wanted to create if they had an opportunity. Containing a hodgepodge of influences like folk, gothic rock, progressive rock, and pop, it sounds like a tribute to various acts that Clarke has been deeply fond of. At the same time, there is great ambitiousness in this record in terms of its detailed and oftentimes elaborate compositions and pristine production, as if Clarke wanted to go over and above to show his commitment and affection to the artists that inspired him.

The dominant style on most numbers is a psychedelic mix of progressive rock and folk, giving nod to classic outfits like Pink Floyd and Jethro Tull, coupled with lush, pop-oriented arrangements in the same vein as more modern acts like Blackfield or Mansun. The best cuts on the album follow this musical combination, like the gorgeously serene opening song “Drive” or “The Velvet Fog,” which has an additional dreampop bent.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“Mountains” has an old-time psych-prog appeal, but with leaner instrumentation, consisting primarily of the piano. Still, this track is no less dreamy as the some of the more decorated ones thanks to the enchantingly beautiful string arrangements. Similarly, “Only In Dreams” is sparse, with the piano as the main instrument. But the folksy flutes and spooky backing vocals give it a chimerical feel, like a spooky fairy-tale.

Even though it is hard to pick the best song on this disc, the closing track “The Ever Turning Wheel” comes closest to being one. This one is a seven-minute long epic: a contemplative prayer, with evocative vocals and soft but grand instrumentation, consisting of pianos, violins, and big drums.

“Home” is another grand and great epic, but it represents the more eccentric side of this record. This number goes from having minimal but dark guitars in the beginning, then advances into a full-blown mode of catharsis with explosive industrial-sized drums and ominously loud instrumentation that have a very destructive feel – far from the tranquility of the other cuts.

Likewise, “Spiders” is also foreboding and weird, with an overwhelming “goth” sound, thanks to the funereal bass lines around which the track revolves. Although this lumbering number is a bit boring, the beautiful piano-driven arrangement towards the end really brightens things up.

The unexpected single “Never Be Without You” is an outlier, since it totally misrepresents the rest of the album. This is a super-bubbly love song that is stylistically so close to one of Cure’s upbeat whimsical cuts, that it comes across as imitative. On the other hand, “Bulletproof,” which is also an attempt by the duo at creating upbeat pop with its programmed beats and soothing guitars, fares better and sounds much more genuine.

It is clear that Clarke has poured his heart into making this record. In regards to meeting Goswell, Clarke stated that she not only turned his world upside-down, but provided the catalyst for The Soft Cavalry, adding, “I’d always had ideas but never felt that anything I had to say was worthy of anyone’s attention, let alone my own...” Sometimes a push is all it takes to bring one’s hidden genius out, and The Soft Cavalry is a great example of this.

Rating: A-

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© 2019 Vish Iyer and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Bella Union, and is used for informational purposes only.