Personnel: Hope Sandoval (vocals, keyboards, vibraphone, background vocals); Mariee Sioux (vocals, background vocals); Kurt Vile (vocals); Colm O'Ciosoig (guitar, drums); Dave Brennan, Charles Cullen, Jim Putnam (guitar); Michael Masley (harp, gong); Ji-Young Moon (cello); Mick Whelan (keyboards).
Hope Sandoval isn't the quickest worker, it took Mazzy Star almost 20 years to put out their fourth album, and this record comes seven years after the last one she made with Colm O Cosig under the Warm Inventions name. Despite the time it took to arrive, Until the Hunter is no great departure for the duo. It features many hushed, lit-by-candlelight ballads, loads of quiet beauty, and Sandoval's timelessly beautiful singing. Songs drift by on a wispy cloud of acoustic strumming, lazily twanged slide guitar, and twinkling keys, sometimes gently pushed forward by lightly brushed drums, sometimes left to float along on their own. New to the mix this time is vibraphone, as played by Sandoval, and a couple songs that stretch her horizons just a bit. The duet with Kurt Vile on "Let Me Get There" features the duo getting loose over a slinky Memphis soul groove: Sandoval sounding strangely at home in unfamiliar surroundings, Vile sounding like he wandered in off the street and barely learned the song. It's too bad he got the gig -- there are at least 50 male singers who could have nailed it in his place. The album-opening "Into the Trees" is a very, very slowly unspooling psych folk ballad that doesn't have much of a tune, but grabs the listener by the throat using its foggy chords, mysterious organ, and Sandoval's almost possessed vocals. It lasts for nine minutes, but could have gone on twice as long. The rest of the album is fully up to the standards Sandoval has established over time, with heart-tugging ballads like the very Mazzy Star-sounding "The Peasant" and the lovely "Day Disguise," languid folk songs ("The Hiking Song," "A Wonderful Seed"), and even a couple songs of a more sprightly-than-usual nature, the handclap-driven "I Took a Slip" and the almost jaunty "Isn't it True." As on previous Warm Inventions records, Sandoval and O Cosig prove masters of creating atmospheric settings for her luminous vocals. The addition of vibraphone and the slightly more expansive arrangements help make the album a subtle progression from the first two, so do the increased number of catchy songs. The duo have crafted another beautiful album and Sandoval sounds just as bewitching as she did the first time she stepped behind a microphone. Seven years is a long time to wait between albums, but if that's how long it takes to make the album as good as this is, then the wait was worth it. ~ Tim Sendra
Uncut (magazine) - "As ever, it all coalesces around that voice, and its still-potent conjuring of beauty and darkness. Timeless music, for heavy times."