Mazzy Star - So Tonight That I Might See - Classic Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Mazzy Star - So Tonight That I Might See

by Warwick Stubbs Rating:10 Release Date:1993-10-05
Mazzy Star - So Tonight That I Might See
Mazzy Star - So Tonight That I Might See

Some albums, great and forgotten, are cut from the blood of hardships, some from the sweat of non-stop touring, some from the tears of break-ups and disappointments; and then there are those cut straight from the bands own pure talents, refined, polished and left to shine in refracted light off their glorious surfaces. Miners dig for stones to uncover and cutters in workshops sculpt to shape rocks into shining jewels. Occasionally works of pure art are born.

In 1994 the sound of an acoustic guitar strumming an A chord in 6/8, turning to an E, and finishing two bars of the four on a Bm wafted out of my parents’ TV screen and into my ears; a simple slide guitar figure joined second time around with drums and bass, a subtle piano; grainy black and white visuals peeking in at a slim figure through window grates before revealing the band on stage and that slim figure’s hushed vocals singing “I wanna hold the hand inside you . . .”

I was hooked. I wanted the hand inside me held. But most of all, I wanted to experience what dark bewildering caverns this one song might lead me down.

Released the previous year – September 1993 – So Tonight That I Might See revealed a band fully confident in exploring all aspects of their influences while still maintaining their own unique sound, a sound often referred to as ‘ethereal’, ‘psychedelic’, ‘folk’, but perhaps most often described via the subgenre of ‘dream pop’. ‘Fade Into You’ released in April of 1994, became their biggest hit and, as the first song on the album, perfectly encapsulates that ethereal beauty of Mazzy Star as they present simple chords and melodies through a folk format. For all of its near five minutes, the song barely changes: chords stay the same, drums and piano sit in the background, some tambourine appears in the slide guitar’s solo passage, and vocals never rise above their breathy alto low range of notes. It is music that perfectly captures the very essence of lyrical details like “A stranger’s light comes on slowly” to fade out with the chorus’ “I think it’s strange you never knew . . .”.

‘Bells Ring’ swaps the acoustic for a clean electric on one side of the speakers and distortion quietly buzzing on the other side while vocals continue with a dreariness soaked in reverb. “Nobody’s out to buy your story, nobody wants to know your reason why, just hold your hands out towards the water, in front of me to know I’m with you.” Songs like this aren’t demanding devotion but are politely asking for company. The beauty of this song is that it gently picks up pace and activity with the return of tambourine and a fuzz guitar lead line that takes the song out towards the end. Third song ‘Mary of Silence’ displays all their psychedelic influences with a repeated bass line, an underlying organ drone, guitar feedback and wah-wah complimenting fragile vocals looking for faith in its projected subject matter. ‘Five String Serenade’, a cover of Arthur Lee and Love’s 1992 original, is bare-bones acoustic, vocals, with a gently mournful violin (or two) filling in the spaces – pure folk.

Guitarist David Roback and vocalist Hope Sandoval grew this work from Roback’s previous incarnation Opal, taking much inspiration from The Velvet Underground and later Art Rock and Psychedelics of The Jesus and Mary Chain, the latter with whom Sandoval would later contribute vocals for. Throughout all albums Mazzy Star’s music eschews bombast and rock in favour of folk foundations layering electric feedback to contrast with Sandoval’s limited – but admittedly, beautiful – vocal range, a solo violin here and there, an organ to beef up the acid trip when needed, minimalist percussion and bass. The first album She Hangs Brightly was a warm and often light-weight take on dream pop, the third album the polar opposite – coldness infuses almost every song on Among My Swan. ‘She’s My Baby’ takes a jaunty look back at that debut with upbeat acoustics and a warping electric guitar interspersing the vocals.

There is a tendency to think of Mazzy Star as depressing, but this album is far from that, and two covers of Minnie McCoy – ‘I’m, Sailing’ from She Hangs Brightly, ‘I’m Gonna Bake My Biscuit’ from the ‘Fade Into You’ single – showcase their Blues influences far from the often down and out themes of the genre. Song eight, ‘Wasted’ takes this Blues influence towards psychedelia through a rugged trip recovery that jokingly enthuses about being “wasted all day long.” There’s even a touch of Led Zeppelin in the folky chords of ‘Unflected’, bongos and shakers replacing drums.

So Tonight That I Might See is not an album that relies on heartbreak to create its beauty, as track nine intones “Still falling, breathless . . .” in languid takes, nor does it merely copy and regurgitate back influences, but subtly shifts the light we see music through, deflects and reshapes these sounds into something familiar but new. Follow-up album Among My Swan felt broken, relationships falling apart, instruments stripped of reverb, mistakes laid bare; the songwriting heartbreakingly beautiful, still sparse, but sometimes loaded with pain in the form of reverse tape effects – brokenness crafted into beautiful art as often is the case.

But So Tonight That I Might See finds simplicity produced with expert technique, acoustics drenched in reverb without obscuring their natural sounds as the listener embraces darkness without ever having to fear darkness, to discover perfectly wrought songs conveying our most longing of desires and our most wistful of emotions.

A true work of Art.

Overall Rating (1)

5 out of 5 stars
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