Folk is unique in its haunting way of telling a story. It's haunting, often times with enchanting lyrics and atmospheric groove backing in. Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions are back with their third record Until The Hunter with a very polished and raw sound.
The album is the first since 2010's Through The Devil Softly, and the band's third record overall, their 2001 debut Bavarian Fruit Bread being their original release. Three albums scattered across fifteen years means a lot of thought and growth in each album. There's definitely a lot of progression evident in Until The Hunter from the band's early shoegaze roots. The spiraling 'Into The Trees' introduces the record, the nine minute monster moving slowly like an oozing wave swallowing everything in its path. Soulless, angry vocals come from Hope Sandoval as she melancholically croons "I miss you" atop sweeping organs and a chugging drum beat carry on towards the final minutes of the track.
The isn't another synthetic track of that degree on the record - 'The Peasant' quickly follows up with a more recognizable folk charm. Light acoustic guitars are the main component of the track besides Sandoval's vocals, with reverberating guitars sounding high in various interludes throughout the track. Much is the same in 'Day Disguise,' a song with much the same composition. Acoustic guitar support is a recurring motif throughout the record, but 'I Took A Slip' puts it into a different perspective: the acoustic guitars have a sharper and more confident drive to them, Sandoval singing more sensually and provocatively above them. The timing isn't always on point in this track, but that adds a layer of rawness to it. It's not lazy - it's all calculated. A Middle Eastern guitar line sounds faraway towards the end of the song, providing for a desert road vibe and a longing taste of adventure.
Perhaps not shockingly, the search of a thrill is what 'The Hiking Song' is about, but in a different way than 'I Took A Slip.' Instead of sharpness, 'Hiking' is gentler, the guitars sounding more akin to sweetly plucked harps. It's peaceful, blissful, and beautiful - a melancholy, lonely hike on a presumably cloudy day soundtracked by this track. Sandoval's vocals echo through the song's canyons with harmonies joining in from the opposite side of them. It's hopeful and objective, but in the end it feels like it hasn't quite found what it was searching for. Strings, harmonies, and various percussion sounds intermittently throughout the track, giving it both flavor and a sense of discovery. It ends with finality but still feels like it needs more - not in terms of substance, but in meaning.
There's little to say that's against this record. The only complaint that can be had is that it doesn't really tread away from certain core sounds much. It's a very folk album, that's for sure, and they really make sure you know that. Kurt Vile features on 'Let Me Get There,' but even with the addition of male vocals, the song doesn't sound much different than the rest of the record. Other tracks like 'Treasure' and 'Salt Of The Sea' fall in line of "not bad, but nothing special" as well. The moments that do tread from the norm are especially solid, like the opener. The closer 'Liquid Lady' is another strong track, the challenging drive of 'I Took A Slip' translated to electric. The song feels like a rock band on a small boat traveling of a Louisiana coast at twilight. The bluesy guitars give it a true folk vibe as the sunset sets behind the scene and the city lights of the bayou turn on. The vibe gives the album a haunting end, full of the struggle and sensuality the rest of the record had.
It's been a long career for Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions, but over their vast career they've crafted their music to the best of what they can do. Until The Hunter is not a perfect album, but it's by no means a bad one. It's a haunting folk record with a very firm grasp on its sound. Let's just hope the next record isn't another six years away.
Favorite Tracks: The Hiking Song, Liquid Lady, Into The Trees
Least Favorite Tracks: Let Me Get There, Isn't It True
Rating: 77 / 100