Though it is hard to say that Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions’ previous album ‘Through the Devil Softly’ disappointed critics or fans, it was overlooked by many – perhaps because it didn’t quite fulfill the expectations of being a side project that consists of members from two of the most acclaimed and sonically comparable acts of the 90’s, Mazzy Star vocalist Hope Sandoval and My Bloody Valentine member Colm O’Coisog. On Until the Hunter, the duo’s third album, they reach their potential, as they take the listener through a journey into a mysterious world.
The band actually recorded some of these tracks inside the Martello towers in Ireland, and knowing that, the 9-minute opening track ‘Into the Trees’ feels like an invitation to enter the tower, as if guiding the listener through a dark and misty night. Sonically, it’s the band’s most experimental track, as it relies almost solely on atmosphere, with its spooky percussion, haunting synths and church organs, and Hope Sandoval’s signature mystical voice repeating “I miss you” in a fragile, melancholy tone. As the song builds up, The Shining-esque strings and obscure backing vocals add to the horror-like, captivating mood.
[contentblock id=141 img=adsense.png]
Once the listener is brought in, however, the skies clear up, the songs become more direct and familiar, and the deliveries somehow feel warmer, though just as enchanting. Most of these songs rely on guitar and vocals; standout track ‘The Peasant’ is reminiscent of ‘Fade into You’-era Mazzy Star, with its signature slide guitar and moving, dreamy melody. The memorable ‘Let Me Get There’, the album’s second single and one of its highlights, features singer-songwriter Kurt Vile, and the two voices blend together quite beautifully, providing one of the most comforting and hopeful performances on the album.
The echoes that make ‘Into the Trees’ so effective never fade throughout the album. They reveal themselves on many of the acoustic-based tracks, notably on the ethereal, alluring, and siren-like ‘A Wonderful Seed’, or the fingerpicked ‘The Hiking Song’. The emotional depth is quite lost on the more electric songs, though, especially on the unnecessarily long closing track ‘Liquid Lad’ and the track ‘Salt of the Sea’, which might be affecting as a song but feels like a leftover from ‘Through A Devil Softly’. The sort of floaty, otherwordly atmosphere, however, always persists.
Though it may not be outstandingly original, the album shows the band feels comfortable and at home with what it’s doing and showcases the talent of its members. “Can I please haunt you?” Hope sings on ‘Day Disguise’, and she achieves just that, simultaneously keeping her listeners “warm like a hurricane into a storm”.