Review : Hope Sandoval - Through The Devil Softly
DrownedinsoundWhen Hope Sandoval unexpectedly materialised a decade ago in the midst of the Chemical Brothers’ otherwise-alarmingly-housey big beat thesis Surrender, her very presence crowbarred a heavy-lidded eye into the whip of the storm, slamming the metaphorical brakes on one of the most relentlessly badgering dance albums of the dying Ninties. In a sense, her paralysingly narcotic cameo on mid-album standout ‘Asleep From Day’ tells you most of what you might need to know about Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions, even if life has thus far cruelly deprived you of the chance to wade throat-deep into her quicksand vocals for divine, sadly dormant Santa Monica shoegazers Mazzy Star
Perhaps fittingly for an artist who seems hell-bent on creating an army of somnolent, blissed-out disciples to do her vaguely sinister bidding, Sandoval has taken her molasses-sweet time (eight years, no less) to make this sophomore appearance with dream-pop dilettantes The Warm Inventions. To be fair, she has been suitably busy elsewhere - as recent confirmation of her guest appearance on Massive Attack’s upcoming fifth LP attests - and it’s equally hard to imagine fellow Warm Invention and My Bloody Valentine founder/drummer Colm Ó Cíosóig having had much free time of late, either.
Still, from the very outset, the constant reminder that we’re in no particular hurry meanders beneath Through The Devil Softly like a brackish, turbid bayou. Opener and download-only launch single ‘Blanchard’ states the case as solemnly as any track here, sliding in on a descending spiral staircase of glassy acoustic chords that give way to a shimmering, mirage-like lead motif, all the while leaving plenty of room in the foreground for Sandoval’s breathily intimate incantations.
Coming across like Katie Jane Garside’s shamanic fairy godmother, Sandoval breathes spectral life into a dusky tale awash with painterly invocations of fractured, restless memories. “All those times you sent my brother down your road / Holding on to the dope that you sold,” runs her accusatory purr, “I knew then that we could never be blessed / I know it this way, and I know what I confess.” So heady are the otherwordly atmospherics here, a less dextrous touch could leave it feeling like some hokey Derek Acorah blabberlogue featuring fretful spirits unable to ‘pass over’. In Sandoval’s phantasmal clutches, though, it achieves a bona fide eeriness that only dissipates when we’re poured into an impossibly mellifluous chorus: in a moment of subtle, almost sleight-of-hand interplay between artful production and fastidiously tailored songwriting, ‘Blanchard’ suddenly dips its head in graceful capitulation, unfurling with all the gentle drama of origami left out in the rain. ...full text
PopmattersAs half of Mazzy Star, Hope Sandoval forged a sound so distinctive that even blatant imitators have had a hard time duplicating it. Adjectives abound when describing the band: ethereal, haunting, enchanting, airy, brooding, erotic… You get the picture. And while a large part of the band’s appeal was guitarist David Roback’s hazy, often erratic playing, there’s no doubt it was Sandoval’s voice that inspired many a listener to lay in bed at night, slack-jawed and spellbound. I know I did.
For those, like me, who fell under Sandoval’s spell, her infrequent output—both with and without Mazzy Star—is frustrating. The last Mazzy Star album, Among My Swan, came out in 1996, and her work with the Warm Inventions (which, like Mazzy Star, is essentially a duo fleshed out by guest musicians) has also been sparse. The band’s last LP, 2001’s Bavarian Fruit Bread, showcased Sandoval’s voice front and center, but maybe that’s because the music was so subdued it often seemed an afterthought. Then again, how could you not showcase that voice?
Thankfully, the eight-year hiatus has served Sandoval and her Warm Inventions collaborator, former My Bloody Valentine drummer Colm Ó Cíosóig, very well. Their latest album, Through the Devil Softly, is not only more fully developed than its predecessor, it also provides the musical context that Sandoval’s voice demands. Less folky and more nocturnal than Bavarian Fruit Bread, Devil will no doubt have Sandoval’s fans trading in hours of rest for one of those long nights of listening in the dark.
To be sure, Sandoval’s voice has always sounded best when set against musical backgrounds that are just as darkly mysterious; that tone is definitely achieved here, beginning with opening track “Blanchard”. As Sandoval purrs over a simple, repeating chord progression, tremolo guitar lines waver through the air like heat rising from the highway on a hot summer afternoon. “Who should we blame for the things that we do?” Sandoval asks, the overall effect both hypnotic and unsettling.
Indeed, a slightly eerie tone pervades the album, achieved through both the atmospheric arrangements and Sandoval’s often-disconcerting lyrics. “For the Rest of Your Life”, for example, is built upon a thick, ropy bass line that, alone, is sultry and seductive. Juxtaposed, however, against vibes and random stabs of guitar, it feels more threatening than enticing, particularly when Sandoval sings, “Never let your hand shake when you’re firm on your blade”.
That seems to be Sandoval’s modus operandi on Through the Devil Softly: to allure and then disturb, to entice with lulling music only to unnerve with disconcerting confessions. Just about every track, from “Trouble” to “Sets Ablaze” to “There’s a Willow”, features a troubled narrator who seems to take strange delight in her darkest impulses. This, perhaps, explains the title of the album, which perfectly describes the overall tone of this collection of songs.
And that’s where some may find fault with this album. While many albums feature songs threaded by a common theme, this one also features songs threaded by the same tempo and tone. Those looking for sonic variation won’t find it here, but that seems to be beside the point. To complain about Sandoval’s music being slow and sultry would be like, say, complaining about Scorsese using tracking shots—that’s what she does, and she does it better than most....full text
DustedmagazineIt’s been eight years since Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions’ first album, Bavarian Fruit Bread. During the intervening time, this collaboration between Mazzy Star member Sandoval and My Bloody Valentine’s Colm Ó’Cíosóig shifted for me, through incessant listening, from being a mild curiosity, to an addiction, to one of this decade’s most enduring records. It’s largely to do with the unassuming nature of Sandoval’s songs: Slight at first, they unfurl almost unwillingly, their armor of diffidence eventually yielding to the warm, humane heart at their core. It helped that they sounded fantastic, too, adrift on reverb, intimating vastness, their static nature pausing the listening experience ‘mid-breath.’ ...full text
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