wears the trousers magazine


hope sandoval & the warm inventions: through the devil softly (2009)

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Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions
Through The Devil Softly •••••
Nettwerk

It’s hard to think of any single artist from the ’90s who has been so frequently missed as Hope Sandoval. Collaborations with Devendra Banhart, Death In Vegas, Air and Massive Attack have kept her occupied, but the lack of her own material has definitely been pined for. But now, in answer to our prayers, the undisputed queen of shoegaze has returned. Reuniting with collaborator Colm Ó Cíosóig of My Bloody Valentine fame, this long-awaited second effort from The Warm Inventions follows on somewhat belatedly from 2001’s Bavarian Fruit Bread, which saw her stepping away from the revered alt-rock of former band Mazzy Star and into something a little more her own. Recently announced tour dates have roused excitement and the confirmed promise of new material is in itself a pleasure, but with a hugely-felt 8-year absence since her last solo outing, expectations are understandably high.

Recording for Through The Devil Softly took place in Northern California and the Wicklow Mountains of Ireland, both appropriate locations for a singer whose catalogue of work is appliquéd with pastoral inflections. Sandoval and Ó Cíosóig shared production and engineering duties between them, bolstered by an appearance from Mazzy Star keyboardist Suki Ewers. Like Bavarian Fruit Bread, the album’s arrangements hover between the accessible and stranger, more experimental turns. The plumage of Sandoval’s original slowcore stylings is very much intact, while the changes in songwriting wrought by time’s inevitable hands have the same subtle power as fine lines around the eyes of a once familiar but long absent face. Her winsome verse seems both increasingly introverted and cryptically expansive, with the wry youthfulness of her debut turning perhaps a shade or two darker, grown restless and volatile where some may have expected a matured sense of peace.

In a landscape marked with loosely gliding drum patterns, the distinctly spellbinding ‘For The Rest Of Your Life’ is discrepant with an absence of any solid, dependable percussion, cutting instead through the canvas with large single notes, rippling with reverb and veering off into the distance with a nonchalant threat made all the more troubling by some simmering, visceral lyrics: “Never let your hand shake when you’re firm on your blade / never make a keepsake of the spill that you make”. Capricious stuff indeed, but mourning and melancholy also ripple throughout Through The Devil Softly, with a fleeting wave on the short, downbeat ‘Sets The Blaze’ and a longer bow on the ballad-like, swooping piano of ‘Blue Bird’. The breathtakingly beautiful, harmonica-inflected ‘Wild Roses’ was originally released last year on Air France’s In The Air compilation but loses none of its timelessly intensity here, floating with a melancholy honesty and nostalgia that only Sandoval can deliver.

Inverting the woe are moments of blazing pleasure. ‘Fall Aside’ adds a gentle sheen of folk psychedelia to hypnotising shoegaze melodies, while Ó Cíosóig excels on classical guitar on the brilliant ‘Thinking Like That’, sounding like two instruments in discourse, weaving between pleasure and disharmony with all the shifting flights of a lovers’ confession, brought to a crescendo with guest Ji Young Moon’s provocative cello solo. ‘Trouble’ seems a little too easy, with moody, sweeping tremolo wrapping itself around a rather conventional score, though even this accessible arrangement sounds lush in Sandoval and Ó Cíosóig’s hands. The dreamy, non-committal ‘Satellite’ punctuates the end of the album ambivalently with a lost, sorrowful lowering of lashes, its muffled, recorded-underwater quality leaving a haunting eccentricity that echoes with the listener long after.

Back to breaking hearts with exquisite abandon all over again, Sandoval’s ethereal vocals have lost none of their bewitching authenticity, gracing the shifting currents of darkness and light with a spectral potency unmatched by any of her peers. Her command of lyrical poetry has grown achingly acute and the almost decade-long wait was unequivocally worth it. Through The Devil Softly is a stunning gift of words and sound that should could keep us all sated, and sublimely blue, for some time to come.

Charlotte Richardson Andrews
UK release date: 28/09/09; www.myspace.com/hopesandoval


FREE MP3: Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions, ‘Trouble’
FREE MP3: Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions, ‘Blanchard’ [via Pitchfork]


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[…] What we said then: “Back to breaking hearts with exquisite abandon all over again, Sandoval’s ethereal vocals have lost none of their bewitching authenticity, gracing the shifting currents of darkness and light with a spectral potency unmatched by any of her peers. Her command of lyrical poetry has grown achingly acute and the almost decade-long wait was unequivocally worth it. Through The Devil Softly is a stunning gift of words and sound that should could keep us all sated, and sublimely blue, for some time to come.” ••••• Charlotte Richardson Andrews […]

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[…] 29/8] 05 Imogen Heap – Ellipse [P Viktor 20/8] 06 Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions – Through The Devil Softly [Charlotte Richardson Andrews 31/8] 07 Marina & The Diamonds – The Crown Jewels EP [Richard […]

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