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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.