Santa Monica duo Mazzy Star are back with the Still EP, their second piece of new music since their 2013 return-album Seasons of Your Day. (The first was 2014’s “I’m Less Here”, a Record Store Day single.) Still is also Mazzy Star’s first new music since their longtime drummer and founding member Keith Mitchell passed away last year, on May 14, 2017.
Opener and first single “Quiet, the Winter Harbor” represents stillness both in the sense of continuation and motionlessness. “Why are you still walking around the block?” Hope Sandoval asks. “You had a long time to think who you are…. You’re like a villain in some old film, walking in the dark in somebody’s room.” Although the person she sings about is in motion, the music
contrasts the scenes: Melancholy piano leads this ballad. Notes of David Roback’s electric guitar gather like dew.
“He looks through my eyes once more,” Sandoval sings on “That Way Again”, a song Mazzy Star have played live for years. But there’s change here too: “Never gonna think of him that way again.” This song exemplifies what Mazzy Star arguably do best: starry-eyed country balladry.
The next two songs are less conventional. The title-track features strong acoustic strums and the faintest violins. They resemble something from The Velvet Underground & Nico but without as much forward momentum. “Still” ends abruptly, like a flame so weak, it’s been snuffed out by a breeze. At only two minutes in length, “Still” is the shortest track on the EP.
Closing the EP is a remake of one of Mazzy Star’s most classic songs, “So Tonight That I Might See”. The original gem appeared on their 1993 album of the same name. 25 years later on Still, they’ve expanded the original by half a minute. They’ve now brought the song’s run-time to a few seconds short of eight minutes.
Both the original and the new “ascension version” are psychedelic. Both induce trances. But the spacious, jangly quality is gone. So is the combination of single drum-hits and tambourine. Instead, the remake opens with keys that could prelude a cold wave rave-up. They imbue the song with a more menacing edge. And the drum-work is fuller with light taps of cymbals. Whereas “So Tonight That I Might See” used to sound like music cult worshippers would lay prostrate to en masse, it now sounds more fitting for solitary observance. Either way, the song induces not so much tranquility as languor.
As far as being a standalone work, there isn’t much new on Still. Mazzy Star are as wispy, trippy without being overbearing, and dreamy as ever. But the EP stirs intrigue over what them revisiting past material might mean for their next LP.
review by Leslie Chu