Even though this is Hope Sandoval and Colm O’Coisog’s third album together, The Warm Inventions continue to be assessed from the under the shadow of their respective histories. Sandoval’s time in Mazzy Star and O’Coisog’s with My Bloody Valentine is significant of course, but The Warm Inventions is an entirely different beast altogether. There’s a fair amount of shimmering going on admittedly, but that’s about as far as comparisons can stretch.
Where The Warm Inventions differ from the pair’s other bands is in the sheer amount of space that the band leaves unoccupied. The desire to cram every unoccupied area with a scree of noise or clouds of soft focus guitars is largely absent on Until The Hunter. This is immediately evident on the opening nine-minute track Into The Trees which finds Sandoval surrounded by sinister organ drones and noises. Yet O’Coisog’s delicate drumming and those creepy tones still allow the breathy, barely whispered vocals of Sandoval and Mariee Sioux plenty of room. The overall effect is similar to that of attempting to summon wood sprites in a sparsly wooded area, watching tendrils of mist slowly dissipating in the dark and the tails of fireflies dancing in the dark. Probably. Such is the ephemeral nature of the song, it’s quite easy to drift off into flights of fancy that may, or may not involve woodland sprites, as Sandoval intones “I miss you”.
Away from the swirling mists and drones of Into The Trees, a significant part of Until The Hunter is really pared back to just guitar and vocals. This approach offers fewer chances to venture into hazy dream worlds, but provides opportunities to become enchanted by Sandoval’s absolutely magical voice. The Peasant and Let Me Get There (the latter, featuring Kurt Vile) both tap into folk and country perfectly. Let Me Get There takes things in a more radio friendly way, with Vile and Sandoval creating a genuine sense of chemistry as they exchange lines. It’s somewhere between Kenny Rogers and Big Star, which might sound implausible, but it also sounds amazing. There might be a sense of pleading, sadness and want at the heart of the song, there’s a strange smoothness to it too. Sandoval and Vile sing of being “in the groove” with such laid back and warm tones, that it sounds like chilled out, post-bong languor, but there’s an undertone of sadness and acceptance too. It’s something that bleeds though into closing track, the dreamy, soulful blues of a nightclub ballad with a snaking, creepy edge. It wouldn’t be out of place in a David Lynch movie.
The Peasant adds a little Roy Orbison twang to the guitar, before foregrounding a truly spellbinding vocal performance from Sandoval. Rarely given to histrionics, she lets the words do the work, almost drawling her lines. As simple as her delivery appears, there’s so much tied up in her performance. With only tiny changes she can evoke a remarkable palette of emotions. On The Peasant she sounds like a heartbroken Country artist, singing to herself in a smoky bar long after everyone’s gone home. Somehow she combines sadness with a strange sultry quality as the song slowly turns into a ghostly version of I Would Rather Go Blind.
She immediately follows that with A Wonderful Seed which finds her in more playful mood, as she runs through a folk tale-cum-nursery rhyme. The Hiking Song keeps things in folk mode, and strips things back to just guitar and vocals with just a little reverb. As with the majority of this album, the joy is to be found in the simplicity of the arrangements, the natural beauty of Sandoval’s voice and O’Coisog’s instrumentation. How they pack so much emotion and feel into so little is nothing short of magical. Their previous bands might have dazzled with sheen and noise, but Until The Hunter impresses with the bare minimum from start to finish.