Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions - "Trouble" (Through the Devil Softly)
It’s been eight years since Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions’ first album, Bavarian Fruit Bread. During the intervening time, this collaboration between Mazzy Star member Sandoval and My Bloody Valentine’s Colm Ó’Cíosóig shifted for me, through incessant listening, from being a mild curiosity, to an addiction, to one of this decade’s most enduring records. It’s largely to do with the unassuming nature of Sandoval’s songs: Slight at first, they unfurl almost unwillingly, their armor of diffidence eventually yielding to the warm, humane heart at their core. It helped that they sounded fantastic, too, adrift on reverb, intimating vastness, their static nature pausing the listening experience ‘mid-breath.’
Through the Devil Softly is as good a case as any for the ever-changing same at the heart of Sandoval’s art. I can understand some of the resignation with which the album’s been met – on the surface, it’s fairly close to its predecessor, and the impatient among us will beg a little for a change in pace or tone. But I like the way Sandoval’s songs move almost in geological time, and the arc the album describes, from its bleary-eyed beginnings, through a patch of jewel-like acoustic songs at its centre, and out via the literally oceanic logic of “Satellite,” where the group broadcast as though through an aged ship’s tannoy, gives Through the Devil Softly the uncanny ability to make time elastic. The acoustic architecture isn’t exactly surprising – slowly strummed guitars emerging out of fog, tinkering bells and filigree music boxes, exquisite swathes of echo and reverb – but is buttressed by the fortitude of the song writing. And Sandoval hovers about it all, murmuring her voice through a cloud.
Records like Through the Devil Softly occupy an odd space. Hung up on a modernist impulse to continually make new, some listeners and critics can miss the power in incremental movement, that leaping sideways can be as powerful as striding forward, that unhurriedly elaborating on one’s own lexicon is just as potent as inventing the next big thing – the latter of which generally suffers from inbuilt obsolescence, anyway. (The album’s pace also suits a growing counter-cultural impulse toward living slowly, considerately.) But, no planned irrelevance here – I’ll be listening to Through the Devil Softly for years to come.