Between the recording and release of Slowdive's ambient Pygmalion, Neil Halstead began writing more song-based tunes to occupy down time. Weeks after being dropped by Creation, Halstead and the remaining members of Slowdive (Rachel Goswell and Ian McCutcheon) recorded six demos within three days, much of it live without overdubs. Their manager brought the tape to 4AD head Ivo Watts-Russell, who immediately gave the trio money to record more material. Feeling that the direction was too removed to retain the Slowdive moniker, they christened themselves Mojave, only to add "3" later for legal purposes. Signed to 4AD, the six demos and three later-recorded songs made up 1996's Ask Me Tomorrow. Subtle, sparse, and somber, the record drew likenesses to Mazzy Star and Cowboy Junkies, along with some debatable country references. Not necessarily country, it sounded like unplugged Slowdive with a slight twang. The band gigged for several months, including a package 4AD tour in the U.S. with Scheer and Lush, dubbed the "Shaving the Pavement Tour."
The shift away from Slowdive was completed with 1998's Out of Tune. More upbeat in nature, it also featured more involved arrangements. Former Chapterhouse guitarist Simon Rowe was officially added as a member, as well as Alan Forrester on keys. Their full-time presence helped round out the band's sound. At this point, Mojave 3 -- and Halstead's classicist songwriting in particular -- began to earn favorable comparisons to Bob Dylan, Nick Drake, and Neil Young. Excuses for Travellers followed two years later, continuing in similar fashion as something of a hybrid of their first two LPs. Three years came and went -- and were broken up by a Halstead solo album -- before the release of Spoon and Rafter, an album that was recorded throughout the course of a year, at the band's studio in Cornwall. The next bandmember to release a solo record was Goswell, whose 2004 release Waves Are Universal was met with critical and commercial indifference. Perhaps the whole group was feeling this wave of indifference too, because their next record, 2006's Puzzles Like You, threw their formula out and recast them (quite successfully) as an uptempo pop band with the occasional country-influenced ballad. ~ Andy Kellman & Tim Sendra