Queen of the night
For some, it is never too late or too dark to blossom, and this is precisely the case for life-long musician Steve Clarke. Readers here will be forgiven for not knowing who Steve Clarke is; about eight years ago Steve was a recently divorced tour manager who had played in several bands since the nineties, with not much to write home about. As chance would have it, he fell in love and began a relationship with English shoegaze star Rachel Goswell of Slowdive. The connection has been a sort of healing experience for both Clarke and Goswell, a cathartic romance that has flowered into a synth-pop project that displays some serious vulnerability, a project called The Soft Cavalry.
The Soft Cavalry’s self-titled debut album naturally showcases many of the elements of dream pop/shoegaze that have distinguished Goswell’s career, but the record is masterminded by Clarke, with Goswell’s distinctive vocals providing support. That support is evident right away in the record’s opening track “Dive” whose steady drum rhythm and sustained guitar chords create a perfectly dreamy atmosphere for Clarke and Goswell’s vocal dance. The singing waltz continues in “Bulletproof” to a quicker tempo and a deep bassline that rounds out the lively guitar-driven composition. “Only In Dreams” is a reflective track that features compelling woodwind-instrument embellishments, a track that breaks momentarily from the record’s pace.
“Never Be Without You” is hands down the record’s best track: the song has an uplifting spirit too as it created by Clarke and Goswell’s promise of eternal love to one another. The song flashes gorgeous vocal harmonies and lush textures throughout, the sustained synthesizers and tasteful guitar riffs cementing the song’s cheerful vibe. More ominous tracks like “Spiders” display Clarke’s moments of doubt, the other side of the spectrum. The creeping piano overture and slow pulsing bass create a dark ambiance to accompany Clarke’s reflection on years of solitude, newfound love, future hopes, and a seemingly abandoned “prey or be preyed on” mentality.
The record finishes with “The Ever Turning Wheel” a triumphant track that fully commits to a shoegaze climax, and ultimately completes the blossom of Clarke and Goswell’s relationship; it presents their collaboration as both a lover’s design and a brand new project by an artist who has grown among and in spite of the shadows. Much like the queen of the night flower, Clarke blossomed in darkness, with the help of a woman whose brilliance as a musician shines on anything she touches like a soft pale moon glow. The Soft Cavalry is a fairly decent entry to any synth-pop/shoegaze fan’s collection, and it reassures the general public that the genres’ revival is still going strong.