By: Sasha Lindsay –
The somnolent Californian, dream pop band Mazzy Star will cast their spell again. After four years, the band known for their hypnotic, ambient sound will release Still, an EP consisting of four tracks out on June 1st via Rhymes Of An Hour Records.
If Mazzy Star had a musical philosophy, its premise would revolve around the word patience. In 1987, Hope Sandoval (lead singer) began performing with David Roback’s band, Opal. Then Opal turned into Mazzy Star in 1989, rich in wistful writing with a spatial groove. And to put things in perspective (amid singles and musical work outside of the band), after their debut album She Hangs Brightly in 1990, they released two more albums in the ‘90s and then after a 17 year hiatus, Seasons Of Your Day emerged in 2013. Their mainstream hit, “Fade Into You” from So Tonight That I Might See (1993) landed on theBillboardHot 100 chart – the only Mazzy Star single to do so. It was haunting and beautifully melancholic, arguably one of the highest points of dream pop. It even made its way onto the screen. But despite their sporadic musical releases, Roback said, “We were always recording and writing. We just didn’t release any of it publicly,” to The Guardian in 2013. Essentially, Sandoval’s noted shyness and need for privacy blends well with this backstory. Known to not speak or engage with the audience, she essentially renders herself almost minimalist on stage. Patience aligns well with stillness, and this EP remains true to their sound.
New Mazzy Star material in 2018 is an enchanting occurrence, and the opening track, “Quiet, The Winter Harbour” delivers. Despite its near Summer release, the song title, not surprisingly, demonstrates their yearning for the dark, even with light present.Sandoval is first an instrument then singer intertwined amongst instruments. Starting with a slowly woven piano melody, the slide guitar is heard(imagine tinges of a nighttime Hawaiian luau meeting Vincent van Gogh’s, The Starry Night). Gifted with a smoky voice, she sounds mysterious, brooding and unaffected. (And yes, Sandoval’s dusky voice is the predecessor to Lana Del Rey’s croon.) “You had a long time/To think who you are” stand out here and time is a factor. This band has had some time to think. And nostalgia permeates with the lines, “And you’re still a star/You’re like a villain/In some old film/Walking in the dark/In somebody’s room”.
“That Way Again” is not wholly new in the sense that they performed it during live shows before. Sandoval sounds slightly more energetic as she delivers a contemplative tale, soaked in a country vibe. She delivers lyrics in a breathy fashion: “I just wait around/Forgiveness is an empty thought/I find myself moving on”. The guitar solo enhances the overall plaintive feel but missing here is the harmonica from previous live versions and we ask, would it have added more texture? And just when a gossamer haze of heartbreak traps you, the band deviates into their experimental “Still”. Sandoval eases you into a séance, with a spoken word delivery, mystical as it is eerie. And “Still”, even though shorter in length, prepares the listener for the final track.
A re-working of “So Tonight That I Might See” is more theatrical than the original. There is still that similar feel to Velvet Underground’s “Venus in Furs”. But now, an organ reverberates through the dark ambiance and distorted guitar riffs, with a bluesy element at work. Think Stevie Ray Vaughan travelling through space. At the three-minute and forty-second mark, the guitar swells into menacing eighties rock riffs until it slows down with psychedelic blues again. It is fitting the band has received comparisons to The Doors. Lyrics such as “Come so close that I might see the crash of light come down on me” highlights the poetic pulse in their writing. Sandoval mumble sings like drifting snow, never quite making a solid landing and leaves it up to the audience to figure out the words hidden behind the music. The last track personifies their avant-garde peak, full of meandering, spatial ebbs and flows.
After three decades, the Mazzy Star formula of languid vocals, ambiance and artistic experimentation remains intact. We are still part of their dark fairy tale where country folk and psychedelic sound live. But a minor disappointment lies in the fact of less new material being released. Knowing how this band works, it is safe to say that they will release more offerings when their mood suits it, keeping their fans in a state all too common – anticipation. But in a time where everything happens so fast, Mazzy Star forces us to contemplate and enjoy time on their slowed down plane.
Recommended Tracks: “Quiet, The Winter Harbour”, and “So Tonight That I Might See”