VH-1’s adult-contemporary audience with its heavy-rotation video “Fade Into You,” the soothing California duo Mazzy Star remains an anomaly in the sphere of slow-core. Determined to hold at bay the fame that inevitably comes with commercial success, the band rarely performs live, instead craving the comfort of the studio. On the group’s newest release, Among My Swan, Hope Sandoval plays the role of the sullen chanteuse to the hilt, but her wafting vocals are only the icing on the cake. Mazzy Star’s real strength lies in guitarist David Roback’s bluesy slide passages and gentle, reverb-laden utterances. While not as melodically strong as the band’s two previous releases, Among My Swan contains a few bright moments, such as the rapturously morose “Take Everything,” which features a blistering solo by Jesus and Mary Chain guitarist (and Sandoval beau) William Reid. The album’s sedate pace is marked by tracks like “All Your Sisters,” an intimate portrait composed of delicate guitar arpeggios and cobweb-thin vocal lines. On “Roseblood,” catatonia is supplanted by psychedelia, as Roback delivers blues-infected testimony of his early years in L.A.’s Rain Parade. Meanwhile, Sandoval’s subdued voice resists any excess of emotion, a trait that has been described as either conducive to sleep or intensely riveting in its lack of adornment. Fortunately for us, we don’t have to decide.
Mazzy Star plays Dec. 4 at the Black Cat.