“MY SONGS BEGIN BY CHANCE – IN THE MOST VARIED EMOTIONAL SITUATIONS. WHEN YOU FEEL THE NEED TO EXPRESS AN EMOTION IN A SONG, IN A PAINTING OR IN A POEM, ANYTHING CAN BECOME THE RIGHT REASON FOR DOING IT. ANY EMOTION BECOMES IMPORTANT. ACTUALLY, THE MOST IMPORTANT, IN THAT PRECISE MOMENT”. THAT IS WHAT ANIMATES HOPE SANDOVAL, ONE OF THE MOST INTERESTING MUSICIANS OF THE LAST THIRTY YEARS, BORN IN THE DREAMY TURMOIL OF SHOEGAZE AND THE QUEEN OF BEWITCHING MELODIES, LIKE A SECRET CEREMONIAL.
Hope Sandoval feeds on emotions like a carnivorous plant in the constant search for food. The artistic world she creates, through sensual melodies, hypnotic rhythms and seductively emotive lyrics, is unique and immediately recognisable. This does not mean that her music is banal or in any way predictable; quite the contrary. Ms Sandoval always manages to surprise, whether she is in the company of Warm Inventions or of project Mazzy Star, like a psychedelic pop Nico from the South; proud and mystical. Born in 1966 in Los Angeles to a Mexican-American family, she surfaced on the California club circuit in 1986, accompanied by her friend Sylvia Gomez, with whom she created the folk project Going Home. In spite of some success on the local indie scene, the turning point came some time later when Sylvia decided to send a tape to Kendra Smith, founding member of Dream Syndicate. David Roback, like Smith, was also a member of Opal, and he proposed himself as producer for the duo.
However, Hope Sandoval’s destiny was not tied for long to that of Gomez: in effect, in 1987, during a tour with Opal, Roback suggested she should replace Kendra Smith who had, meanwhile, decided to leave the band. The Roback-Sandoval duo grew stronger, culminating in the creation of a new musical project born from the ashes of Opal: Mazzy Star. Sandoval wrote the lyrics and performed them, magnificently, in her bewitching, sibylline voice. The mystique that surrounds her personality, poles apart from the exhibitionist social networks which are now swallowing us up, became the leitmotif of her career. The live appearances of Mazzy Star bore more resemblance to a lunar ceremonial than to an ode to rock’n’roll depravity. Hope Sandoval has no need to incarnate hypothetical phallocratic clichés in order to set herself up as the queen of the 1990s indie scene. The strength of her music is expressed through a polished and subtle process of introspection, a kind of shared emotive ritual.
“I prefer the recording studio to the stage. I get scared performing live; on stage I find it really difficult to move and talk to the audience. I sing, that’s all”. Here is a phrase that sums up perfectly Sandoval’s objectives: to make music, and never mind about the packaging. The 90s saw the birth – simultaneously with the frenzy of grunge that invaded America – of a generation of musicians in search of oneiric and obsessive pop sounds, that were delicate and mysterious. Galaxie 500, Ride, Yo La Tengo, Codeine or Low became the pioneers of the essential rock sound: bloodless, that insinuates itself under the skin, like a sedative with side effects that are difficult to control. Mazzy Star added a psychedelic touch (inherited from Roback’s past in the Paisley Underground movement) and some incredibly incisive pop folk melodies, to this narcoleptic world. She Hangs Brightly, Mazzy Star’s debut album, made its mark thanks to ethereal and powerful melodies, accompanied by the unmistakeable voice of Hope Sandoval, giving the group an additional veneer of mysticism. The following album, So Tonight That I Might See (1993) – unforgettable, the single, Fade Into You – did not disappoint; on the contrary, it captivated, thanks to its oneiric and almost supernatural atmosphere, reminiscent of the music of Nico. Following the temporary shelving of project Mazzy Star, Hope Sandoval started a fresh adventure with Warm Inventions, accompanied by the former drummer of My Bloody Valentine, Colm O’Ciosoig, who, over time, became one of her most assiduous collaborators. Bavarian Fruit, the 2002 album, can be considered their best work: seductive acoustics, sound reduced to the bone, with an elegance that is both distant and enveloping, and the immediately recognisable voice of Hope, melancholy and biting.
The adventure continued with the crystalline and sombre Through The Devil Softly (2009), dominated by bewitching whispers, a good dose of psychedelia that accompanies wonderful pop melodies and tense, purified sounds. After many (very many) years away, Hope Sandoval is back this year, still accompanied by Warm Inventions, thanks to the new EP, Until The Hunter, recorded in Dublin in two of the iconic Martello Towers. Her voice has lost none of its subversive power; on the contrary, it has become much richer, like her own life. A surprising album, heart wrenching, with a mystical air. A great, really great, return.