Down to the Badwaters to Bathe. Speck Mountain, Badwater.

Down to the Badwaters to Bathe. Speck Mountain, Badwater.

So Mazzy Star last year returned live, though alas never released anything we’d not already indulged (and subsequently overindulged) in. By all means it was something of a disappointment, even if the shows themselves did anything but dissatisfy. Anyways, it’s been widely reported that they’re this year to return in a more tangible effect and yet irrespective of this actually materialising, it’s likely to be eclipsed by another release. It may be seen as a somewhat hyperbolic delusion of grandeur; a facetious overstatement of overdone intent on my behalf, but any newfangled recordings from California’s Hope Sandoval and David Roback may yet find themselves heavily entrenched in the imposing shadow cast by Chicago’s self-professed “musical soul mates” Marie-Claire Balabanian and Karl Briedrick (or Speck Mountain), and their third full-length, Badwater.

For Badwater is a close descendent of So Tonight That I Might See in its almost every respect. Granted, it’s been spun counterclockwise at a more contemporary speed of revolution, though it’s a crystalline reflection of a record to have subtly infiltrated much mainstream water since its conception in the autumn of ’93. And in the exact same way that sparks which felt almost tangible flickered between Roback and Sandoval back then, so too do they glitter skittishly between Breidrick and Balabanian throughout this one. These are sparks so vivid that even that most casual and slouchy of listeners couldn’t fail to pick up on the scintillating electricity a-crackling, and the result is astonishing enough to roll back the years; the eyes, and ears of the deceased, even.

Whether the ephemeral smoulder of lo-fi opener Caught Up, or the dustbowl crush of Young Eyes it’s Balabanian’s weathered, yet still unmistakably smooth vocal around which their overriding enticement whirrs – a calculated breeding of Sandoval’s porcelain sigh and Juanita Stern’s sultry tones to have been ushered out from that seemingly perennial pout of hers. Live It Down, similarly, recalls Blind Melon cultured beneath the Blue Light of their ever-referenced Cali contemporaries. Nonetheless even when they up the instrumentation and eschew these velvety coos – as they do amidst the lavish, aqueous swells of Coldpoint – theirs is an unwavering majesty consummately translated to that most invigorating of listens.

Though Badwater inspires not only in these broken off bits and quietly complex bobs, but moreover in its irrefutable cohesion and that it ends with the exhaustive six-plus, quasi-Screamadelic stomp of Watch The Storm insinuates that these two are only too aware of the value of the album as was initially intended. This is a denouement worthy of ending anything – a gospel-cloaked slow burner that’s as though an effigy soused in petrol polychromatic as this record’s coat roaring its way to the Inferno. The statuette aforesaid probably resembles some reviewer or other: he, or she, or indeed me – whoever it is to recurrently hurry back to that all-pervasive comparison.

And ultimately, one may claim it to be somewhat unjust, especially in light of the beautiful opacity out from which Slow So Long resonates: it’s questionably the sound of the ensemble at their most innovatory, as Balabanian seductively rasps of struggling to “find our dreams in a needle’s eye” atop intensely piercing reverberations. This itself is dreamy, dust-mottled rock refracted through splintered panes housing sullied windows and despite Krauss once croaking of heading down to the river to pray, these days you’d experience a considerably more revitalising sense of release were you to bathe in Badwater.

Released: January 21st, 2013 [Carrot Top Records]

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