Rachel’s – Handwriting (1995)



My story in discovering Rachel’s is one of those that reminds you how small the world can be. A little over two years ago, my bassoon-playing friend told me about this strange avant-classical-indie improvisational/minimalist musical outfit called Clogs are  that one of his private teachers happened to play in. Thinking little else of it aside from what a weird set of adjectives that is (especially for a four-piece that has a bassoonist where one would expect to see a bassist), I continued on with my life until I found Handwriting languishing in the list of least-seeded torrents on waffles this summer as a part of my post-rock/minimalist/ambient binge. As it would turn out, the first person I decided to tell about this band would be that bassoony friend, who to my surprise was already familiar with them as they’re apparently pretty good friends with some of the members of Clogs (who also share a member with The National, another band I finally got around to discovering the goodness of this summer). Imagine that.

In any case, Handwriting is a great album. Opener Southbound to Marion sets the stage for much of what the record has to offer, the introspective, slow-burning structures of post-rock here colored by violin, viola, cello and contrabass instead of the 300,000 overdubbed guitars we’re all used to by now. As soon as the second track (M. Daguerre) begins, however, it becomes clear that Rachel’s aspires to do something far more interesting than just ‘play lots of sad violin notes’.

M. Daguerre sees the band doing a total sonic 180, featuring a walking pizzicato bassline and the eeriest vibraphone you’re likely to ever hear. Though we hear a little bit of the cello’s plug-in six-stringed cousin on this song, it isn’t until album centerpiece Full On Night that Rachel’s finally centers the texture on an electric guitar. The resulting piece is indicative of the title in a slightly unexpected way- instead of laying on the lamenting string quartet as thick as ever, the rest of the musicians back off and let empty space imply the dark and unknown in a way that is ultimately far more convincing.

Standout tracks: “M. Daguerre”, “Full On Night”

For fans of: Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Clogs, Philip Glass

– Julian


3 Responses to “Rachel’s – Handwriting (1995)”

  1. claudia Says:

    Thank you for this record, but something’s wrong with the file, because actually track two can’t be unziped (or unwinrared), and its missing from the entire record.
    Sad thing.


  2. thirdsecond Says:

    really? that’s a bummer. i shall look into it

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