Though Mazzy Star have managed the neat trick of updating psychedelia for the 1990s without sounding dated, if you're looking for blissed-out music with a happy smile on its face, you might want to think twice before taking the plunge.
When guitarist David Roback wraps his shards of feedback and drawn-out crescendos of reverb and distortion around Hope Sandoval's laconic vocal delivery, the results can indeed be trance-inducing. But their music is as much a disengagement from real life as an investigation of alternate realities, and the druggy states they evoke are comfortably numb rather than euphoric.
In the Beginning, Mazzy Star's roots in the California Paisley Underground movement of the 1980s are deep. Roback, along with his brother Steve, was one of the main architects of leading LA psychedelic revival band, the Rain Parade. Leaving that band after their first LP, he founded the dreamier Opal in the mid-1980s with ex- Dream Syndicate bassist Kendra Smith. Opal's quasi-psychedelic ruminations, with their guitar drones and hints of blues and folk, weren't far off the map that Mazzy Star would follow, and indeed Roback met Sandoval through Smith, who was a friend of Hope's.
Sandoval, still in high school at the time, was playing in a duo called Going Home with Sylvia Gomez; Kendra was impressed enough to make a tape of their music and pass it on to Roback, who produced a still-unreleased album by the pair.
When Smith left Opal under cloudy circumstances in the middle of an American tour with The Jesus & Mary Chain, Sandoval was tapped as her replacement. After that tour and a jaunt through Europe were completed, Opal disbanded, and Roback and Sandoval decided to continue collaborating in Mazzy Star.
Though theoretically a full band, Mazzy Star is very much Roback and Sandoval's show. They write all of the material, and although other musicians (including ex-Clay Allison drummer Keith Mitchell) are given minimal credits (no instruments are listed) on their albums, their backing players remain virtually anonymous to the public.