Mazzy Star - So Tonight That I Might See Music Album Reviews

Each Sunday, Pitchfork takes an in-depth look at a significant album from the past, and any record not in our archives is eligible. Today, we revisit a dream pop classic, a spare and gauzy and outpouring of feeling that still ripples through modern music.

In a 1994 interview, a journalist asked Hope Sandoval, the vocalist of the dream pop group Mazzy Star, how she would respond to those who find the band “too dark.” Sandoval’s answer was simple: “That’s part of reality. Sometimes life is dark.” Mazzy Star made music for those who implicitly know this to be true—introverts, wallflowers, loners. People who spend enough time lost in their own minds to understand that melancholy is often mistaken for misery.
Raised in a large Mexican American working-class family in East Los Angeles, Sandoval was comfortable lingering in shadows behind a wall of long, dark hair. As a child, she was intensely shy and struggled in school. Like so many thinkers and dreamers, Sandoval found refuge in music and often ditched class to listen to records. She especially adored the Rolling Stones, particularly their covers of blues classics like Robert Johnson’s “Love in Vain” or 1965’s The Rolling Stones, Now!, which includes versions of Bo Diddley, Willie Dixon, and Chuck Berry songs. At night, Sandoval would sneak into nightclubs to catch performances by bands like Rain Parade, the Dream Syndicate, and the Three O’Clock, leaders of an L.A. ’60s psych-pop revival called the Paisley Underground.

The co-founder of Rain Parade, David Roback, was quiet like Sandoval, completely engrossed in his own vision. Wilfully enigmatic by most accounts, he idolized musicians like John Lennon and Syd Barrett, trailblazers who pushed their art past pop beginnings toward avant-garde ends. Roback left Rain Parade after one record (1983’s Emergency Third Rail Power Trip) and soon partnered with former Dream Syndicate bassist Kendra Smith and started a psychedelic blues project called Opal. Meanwhile, Sandoval and her friend Sylvia Gomez had formed a band of their own, a folk duo called Going Home. A demo tape made its way to Roback, who ended up producing the group’s first—and never released—record.

In the middle of Opal’s winter 1987 tour supporting the Jesus and Mary Chain, Smith suddenly quit the band and abdicated her rock’n’roll throne for a quiet life in the woods. Down a vocalist, Roback called up Sandoval, who flew across the country to help finish out the tour, something she later called “the hardest thing I ever did.” Back in California, Roback and Sandoval began writing together. They decided that this new material required its own identity. “Opal was David and Kendra’s thing,” Sandoval succinctly explained. “So we started Mazzy Star.”

Mazzy Star’s debut, 1990’s She Hangs Brightly, is a staggering introduction to this communion. The record sounds straight out of a haunted honky-tonk, all country twang drowned by a hefty coat of feedback; Entertainment Weekly put it best when they said it was “as if Patsy Cline had lived long enough to record with the Velvet Underground.” She Hangs Brightly was a success by indie standards, garnering positive reviews and airplay on college and alternative-rock radio. Meanwhile, the band’s label, Rough Trade, declared bankruptcy and dissolved, leaving Mazzy Star without a home.

Then, in 1993, after being picked up by Capitol, Mazzy Star emerged from two years in near-seclusion with their major-label debut, So Tonight That I Might See. Produced once again by Roback, its 10 tracks hover on the border between consciousness and a dreamland that quietly threatens to tip over into a surrealistic nightmare. Though it evokes musical touchstones like Cowboy Junkies, So Tonight That I Might See feels totally removed from time or place—a retreat completely inside the dark corners of two introverted minds. “I prefer the Rip Van Winkle approach to art,” Roback once quipped. Mazzy Star’s dream pop contemporaries, like the UK’s Cocteau Twins or East Coast Ivy Leaguers Galaxie 500, each had their own unique energies; here, finally, was the dream pop for the glitzy decay that is L.A.

At the heart of Mazzy Star is the tacit interplay between Roback and Sandoval, outsiders who built a creative partnership based on trust and intuition. “There’s an improvisational element to what we do,” Roback explained to Guitar Player in 1994. “We don’t play dots on a page. My approach to the guitar is in response to the song’s feeling.” As a result, the destination of each song is unclear; their heavy-lidded melodies can be so atmospheric that you could seemingly fall through them for an eternity. “Bells Ring” is driven by a lethargic guitar and an undercurrent of fuzzy bliss. “Nobody asked about your story/Nobody wants to know the reason why,” Sandoval sings with languor. The eerily seductive “Mary of Silence” and an acoustic cover of Love frontman Arthur Lee’s “Five String Serenade” sound like ghostly lullabies lingering in the purgatory of twilight. Especially sparse is “Into Dust,” which recognizes the inevitable end of love, life, and pain: “I could possibly be fading/Or have something more to gain/…I could feel my eyes turning to dust/And two strangers turning into dust.” There’s no sense of resolve on these songs, only self-obliteration and the inescapable hypnosis of a waking dream.

Rather than shoving uneasy feelings—longing, mortality, loneliness—away, So Tonight That I Might See bears witness. The effect is the revelation of comfort amid solitude. Sandoval yearns for a world just beyond her reach on the swooning, organ-drenched “Blue Light.” With a steady softness, she strings together impressions of this distant land, the shimmer of light reflected in a best friend’s eye, a ship sailing towards nameless harbors, and “waves crashing me by.”

Mazzy Star’s downcast softness existed in stark contrast to their ’90s alternative counterparts, who tended to express their discontent through fury and a fuck-you. So Tonight That I Might See has moments where the images remain ethereal but the music grows harder, intoxicated on a mix of elation and exhaustion. “But she’s just like lightning/She goes right through you/Then you know you’ll never be the same,” Sandoval moans on “She’s My Baby,” whose bluesy grunge sounds straight out of Twin Peaks’ Roadhouse. If her voice is usually on the verge of floating away, on these songs she sinks into the earth and digs into an almost carnal hunger: “After I stuck my hands/Into your ground/And pulled out somebody else’s son/I felt a little unfortunate/A little mistake.” So Tonight That I Might See is remembered for its gauzy torpor, but it is equally full of moments like this: reminders that abstract, internal feelings like sadness, longing, agony, and regret can be articulated in corporeal ways.

All of their dusky amblings come to a head on So Tonight That I Might See’s monumental title track, a seven-minute gothic hallucination that echoes the wandering mysticism of the Doors’ “The End” or the Velvet Underground’s “All Tomorrow’s Parties.” Channeling the incantatory spirits of Patti Smith and Stevie Nicks, Sandoval conjures a vision of transcendence: “Come so close that I might see/The crash of light come down on me.” As her spoken word spirals into a monochrome trance, Roback jabs at his guitar as if he’s sticking a fork into an outlet over and over again just to feel the shock. When the track finally waltzes into the dark, it wraps up without fanfare only a sudden stillness.

Rather than letting So Tonight That I Might See disappear into an ether of its own conjuring, Capitol pushed the album’s most accessible track for nearly a year. “Fade Into You” opens the record with a pensive acoustic guitar, quivering slide, and gently shaking tambourine. From this reverie comes Sandoval’s sandalwood murmur: “I want to hold the hand inside you/I want to take a breath that’s true.” “Fade Into You” is a haunting ode to all-consuming desire, perhaps one of the best ever penned. (It borrows a chord progression from another song about evanescence, Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.”) Its melody burns like the last candle of the evening with delicate, curliquing tendrils of smoke. Like all of Mazzy Star’s music, “Fade Into You” urges you not to think but to feel; it’s dream pop in the purest sense. Capitol’s director of marketing put it a little differently to Billboard: The track had serious makeout potential. “All those kids have boyfriends and girlfriends, and they like to neck, and I don’t think they listen to Barry White,” the executive explained. The label’s faith paid off: By summer 1994, “Fade Into You” was a hit, and by 1995, So Tonight That I Might See went platinum. Countless shows and movies have used the song to soundtrack slow dances and unrequited romances ever since.

But mainstream success was not Mazzy Star’s goal and they refused to let the indie fame induced by “Fade Into You” compromise their individuality. (“Follow anybody, is that what you do?” Sandoval sings on “Unreflected” with atypical contempt.) Roback and Sandoval were known for being painfully shy in interviews. They had equal trouble performing live, thanks to nerves and the intimate, lulling nature of their songs. “Once you’re onstage, you’re expected to perform,” Sandoval explained to Rolling Stone in 1994. “I don’t do that. I always feel awkward about just standing there and not speaking to the audience. It’s difficult for me.” In a clip of the band’s set at Neil Young’s 1994 Bridge School Benefit, Sandoval stands alone at the lip of a massive stage, folding into herself. Without the cover of darkness, she looks like she wishes the earth would open up and swallow her whole.

As the popularity of “Fade Into You” bloomed, Capitol decided that the song needed a new visual. The original music video recalled the song itself: a series of fleeting glimpses shaded by shadows. The second version, directed by Kevin Kerslake (who had filmed the clip for She Hangs Brightly’s “Halah)” is considerably brighter and weaves blue-toned performance footage with shots of the band wandering through a blazing Southern California desert. Crucially, the VP of A&R at Capitol told Billboard, the new video “showed Hope more.”

The undertext of a decision to push a female frontperson further into the spotlight is that beauty (or more cynically, sex) sells. But capitalizing on Sandoval’s image perhaps unintentionally trivialized her role in the band, making her seem like merely the Nico to Roback’s Lou Reed. (Nico, of course, spent a lifetime reclaiming her agency from the myth of the muse.) But So Tonight That I Might See is not about keeping one musician behind a curtain. The creative partnership between Roback and Sandoval is the heart of Mazzy Star. They knew that the band would wilt if pushed into the spotlight more than necessary. So they stuck to the shadows, two quiet, introspective souls deeply engaged in one dream. Together, they drifted into a hazy unknown.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Mazzy Star - So Tonight That I Might See Music Album Reviews Mazzy Star - So Tonight That I Might See Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Sunday, June 14, 2020 Rating: 5

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