The new music stands in some dusty, murky ground between the previous HS&tWI CD, 2001’s Bavarian Fruit Bread (BFB), and the legendary body of work created by Sandoval’s other (long dormant) band, Mazzy Star. Through the Devil Softly (TtDS) is neither as downbeat-shoe-gazing as BFB was, nor is it as deathly otherworldly as the Mazzy Star work was. TtDS finds a glowing haze that the others forego in their overcast evenings and midnight reveries.
The sonic textures of old (glinting, rain-like guitar work; fleeting harmonicas; noir-ish, understated drums) are back and certainly reference the previous HS&tWI recording. But in TtDS they feel not so much quoted as rethought, reconstructed; there really is a different feeling to this new group of songs. Bavarian Fruit Bread’s sound was nested largely in an acoustic feel and this inflected every aspect of the production – even the layered use of keyboards and other ambient soundscapes present in the work. In TtDS, layered instrumentation and vocals signal the constructed, incremental product that it is.
I’m pleased with the confidence in Sandoval’s voice on TtDS and find the syncopation of delivery that she’s using really lovely. Yes, the trademark lilting languidness is there – it’s something fundamental to how she uses her instrument – but on TtDS her intonation touches a clarity and closeness not felt on previous tracks. The music stays pushed off in fade and reverb, yet Sandoval’s breathy voice is near and concise when compared to her past work.
Overall, TtDS feels more varied and staged than BFB… and that’s good. It’s a body of music that feels like it is referencing a greater range of feeling than past tracks were while retaining the trademark sound and mood for which Sandoval is known.
It’s nice to have more Hope out there.
Key tracks from Through the Devil Softly: