Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions
Through the Devil Softly
Hope Sandoval is one of the more enigmatic figures in pop music today, a welcome contrast to the social networking impulse to reveal everything all the time. She seemed to float through Mazzy Star albums like a purple aether, bewitching and beguiling, with a gorgeous coo that often seemed untethered to the music. It was a voice that completely rejected the “bluesy belter” or any other outmoded “women in rock” template, a voice that was only concerned with plumbing the depths of sadness and expression, uninterested in the starmaking machinery that sought to co-opt her. Her body language in interviews and promotional duties spoke to that, sullen silence, pregnant pauses, and a head tilted downward in boredom and disinterest. When Mazzy Star broke up, she seemed, to the casual observer, to disappear.
In a way she did. Sandoval stepped off the pop culture treadmill and immersed herself in music, at her own pace and of her own choosing. Collaborations with Jesus and Mary Chain, Bert Jansch, Massive Attack, and Air followed, as did an album with a new group of collaborators, the Warm Inventions (Bavarian Breadfruit), in 2001. Now going on eight years later, Sandoval is releasing a new album with the Warm Inventions, and though her recorded voice sounds more intimate than ever, to parallel that she seems more distant than ever. The Warm Inventions includes members of Dirt Blue Gene and Sandoval’s main co-conspirator, Colm O’Ciosoig from My Bloody Valentine. Colm was last seen kicking up a monstrous racket with a reborn My Bloody Valentine, and the Warm Inventions, where even fingers moving up and down guitar frets threatens to overwhelm the delicate music… well, that’s just perverse.
Sandoval is the only vocalist for whom it would be a compliment to say that her voice hasn’t matured at all, still sounding like a cosmic-lost-ghost-girl, all autumn winds and careful swoons. Careful listeners, though, will hear hints of blues diva sass (especially in “Trouble”). Unlike the unfettered roar of My Bloody Valentine or the tormented churn that drove Mazzy Star’s fuzztone torch, the instrumentation on Through the Devil is quiet, unhurried, and woodsy — minimal but highly expressive acoustic guitars, murmuring bass and brushed drums, music boxes — like Neil Young’s Harvest or a lost Tim Buckley record. Check out “Lady Jessica and Sam” for a perfect encapsulation of this sound. It’s space rock reflected through a late night fire in the hearth of Big Pink.