As hiatuses go, 17 years is a pretty long time for a band to be out for the count: longer than Guns N’ Roses’ 15-year fiddle over Chinese Democracy, and only five short of My Bloody Valentine’s nuclear winter. But while the epic wait for Mazzy Star’s fourth album must’ve been a frustrating time for the person charged with updating the (possibly ill-advised) ‘What’s new?’ section of their website, it didn’t exactly come as a surprise.
This, after all, is a band afforded cult status for its narcoleptic sound, which swims languidly between the psych-infused indie-folk of LA’s ’80s Paisley Underground scene and sweetly diffuse, glazed-over grunge. Their signature song, 1994 sleeper hit ‘Fade Into You’, was a faintly sinister ode to romantic self-dissolution.
Even their album titles (’91’s She Hangs Brightly, ’93’s So Tonight That I Might See and ’96’s Among My Swan) have a sort of charmed grammatical haziness. Nor were singer Hope Sandoval or guitarist David Roback ever the types to be exactly plagued by urgency. ‘I don’t really notice the time,’ Sandoval told Rolling Stone a few years back in an interview about her (even more pensive) side project, The Warm Inventions. ‘We don’t keep track of the days and months. And the years…’
In fact, Seasons of Your Day, which also features My Bloody Valentine’s Colm O’Ciosoig and the late, great folk guitarist Bert Jansch, was apparently more or less finished back in 2009. It’s a darkly enchanted, luxuriously sleepy stretch of an album, with a sound as unchanged by the intervening decade-and-a-bit as Sleeping Beauty stepping from her glass coffin. As always it’s shaped, textured and coloured a deep, rich mauve by Roback’s echoing electric slide and gauzy acoustic, and by Sandoval’s gorgeously somnolent voice, with its habit of sliding out of focus just as each intimate lyric begins to form a picture in your mind.
That’s not to say it isn’t varied. ‘Flying Low’ is seven-plus minutes of heavily lumbering, headily swirling Doors-influenced blues. ‘Lay Myself Down’ is essentially trippy acoustic pop, like skipping through a K-hole. And if only Beach House, the dream-pop duo most often heralded as the band’s current successors, had something of the countrified intensity of the dust-cloud-stirring Jansch duet ‘Spoon’ to offer alongside their perfumed yawns.
But Seasons of Your Day is an album that moves most when it deviates least from classic Mazzy Star. ‘I know you’ve been missing me,’ sings Sandoval on the title track, its minor-key melody sun-dappled with glockenspiel, rocked by a drowsy string quartet and suffused with sweet autumnal sadness. ‘Well, you know, I’ve been missing you too…’ Maybe next time round we’ll only have to wait 16 years.