September 27, 2009
Album review: Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions - - 'Through The Devil Softly' (Nettwerk)
The first lady of dark dreampop returns
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7 / 10
There's something glacial about Hope Sandoval. Not just in terms of speed (this is the first Warm Inventions record in eight years; the Californian singer's last album before that, Mazzy Star's 'Among My Swan', was in 1996) but inthe unhurried, implacable grace that lends her velvet-voiced gothic country laments such irresistible weight.
'Satellite' sounds like Billie Holiday's final radio transmission to troubled earthlings from her home beyond the stars, the gentlest, most desultory of strums and glances of keys backing Hope's vocal. 'There's A Willow''s gently Hawaiian-tinged, hammock-swinging country bobs along on a gentle, barely-there wash of cymbals, 'Blanchards''s country waltz revisits the dark, dusty-hearted trails recently wandered by Howling Bells and Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan.
'Trouble', too, is a big, swaggering country ballad, all sultry twangs of heat-hazy guitar, dark foreboding and low fuzz. Former My Bloody Valentine drummer Colm O'Ciossoig is once again her right-hand man throughout, but when it comes to it, Hope walks resolutely along.
Soft and slipper-shod as it may seem, there's a complex coldness to Sandoval's lyrical persona. From the coolly mocking "ooh waah oooh waaah ooo/The needles in your eyes/'Cos your mama let you go" in the cavernous and rumblig 'For The Rest Of Your Life' to her admission that "I play death in the space of my life" on 'Blanchard', there's a dense and inky depth beneath the surface gorgeousness to keep you entranced. Just as well: that new Mazzy Star album might be a while.
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