Mazzy Star singer Hope Sandoval delivers an alluring solo album
“Under the Hunter,” the third album from Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions, opens with longing, specifically the sort of late-hour want that brings foggy memories to the brain’s forefront. As woozy drums and droning synths gently nudge along “Into the Trees,” Sandoval folds into herself, her precise enunciation of the first two verses fading into her murmuring “ohh, I miss you” as if it were her mantra. As her presence blends into the atmosphere, the keyboards’ electric tang becomes more alive, more menacing. It’s a heady beginning to a record that explores the textures that make up rock ’n’ roll in depth, allowing listeners to burrow down with Sandoval’s ghostly soprano lighting the way.
Sandoval first came to prominence as the vocalist of the gauze-pop outfit Mazzy Star, whose sighing 1994 track “Fade Into You” became one of the more improbable hits of the alt-rock boom. Her voice has a sweetly soothing quality about it that’s used to excellent effect on “Under the Hunter.” While tracks like sun-dappled “The Peasant” and the gently galloping “Isn’t It True,” possess the sumptuous sonics that made “Fade” such a sensation, other songs, like the spare folktale “A Wonderful Seed,” have bare-bones arrangements that allow her to sound nearly spectral. On the dreamy “Let Me Get There,” Sandoval and slacker-pop bard Kurt Vile engage in a duet that adds a friendly chemistry to its ’70s arena-pop vibes; it’s a seven-plus-minute song that could probably stretch on for double its length and not wear out its welcome.
Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions is a collaboration between Sandoval and Colm Ó Cíosóig, who drums with the much-beloved shoegaze legends My Bloody Valentine. While the glorious noise that band is known for is largely absent from “Under the Hunter,” Ó Cíosóig’s steady hand makes even the superficially tranquil explorations of sound in these songs to seemalive with curiosity and movement.
ESSENTIAL: “Isn’t It True”