Electro-pop koji bježi na dodir, polumračni downtempo i glas Nicole Miglis iz Mjesečevih kaverni.
The ethereal shape-shifting voice of singer Nicole Miglis is the foundation of indie rock/art pop group, Hundred Waters, but it also allows the music to float away.
On The Moon Rang Like a Bell, the band’s second full-length album, listeners are presented with Miglis’ enigmatic lyrics set against a dense soundscape of instruments that might be electronic, acoustic or some beautifully mangled version of both. However, the songs on this new album are more than simple atmospherics. Hundred Waters aims for emotional resonance even if they choose to employ sonic experimentation.
The album’s solemn opener, “Show Me Love,” is a sobering exploration of inner strength. Miglis’ voice is looped and layered providing the only instrumentation. Her inspirational hymn asks for help: “Don’t let me show cruelty/ though I may make mistakes.” Starting off with music this poignant can often come off as cloying, but juxtaposed with genre-bending production strangely enough makes for a more authentic experience.
Miglis sounds like she’s alone in a room with you when she sings—a whisper that turns into a strained falsetto. On one of the memorable tracks on the album, “Cavity,” the band fills that room with music so layered with bass and percussive elements that when Miglis’ voice is once again layered, it seems omnipresent. Most of the lyricism on the The Moon Rang Like a Bell is impressionistic and the band excels at painting an emotional portrait. As Miglis sings the ominous chorus, “You make these feelings go away,” the anxiety and frustration of heartbreak are hard to miss.
Multi-instrumentalists Paul Giese and Trayer Tryon, as well as, drummer Zach Tetreault coalesce to compliment Miglis’ serpentine voice in a way that makes the music sound like it’s from the future. On “Innocence,” hisses and ghostly echoes from machines wash over Miglis’ delivery as she rhetorically asks: “Innocent, innocent/ Why do I worry if you’re innocent?”
On the lush “Down From the Rafters,” the musicianship of the band is at the forefront. Hundred Waters creates a slow-burn textured song that offers listeners plenty to discover, such as when Miglis spookily sings, “I’ve wandered through water/ Since the morning I heard you/ You were half alive/ But that mud inside/ Is the same mud that makes me love you.” It’s hard to decipher whether it’s a plea, a memory or a threat.
On The Moon Rang Like a Bell, Hundred Waters offers an album of quiet moments of subtlety juxtaposed with crashing waves of desperation. Hundred Waters is a fully realized band in unquestionable command of their scope and purpose. They use the extremes of electronic production and manipulation as exploration and not exploitation. So I guess in the future, music is still beautiful. B+ - RAJ DAYAL
It’s been a rather strange rise for Floridian alt-folk-quartet Hundred Waters thus far. Following their impressive self-titled debut in 2012, they quite rapidly (and quite beguilingly) landed themselves on Skrillex’s Full Flex Express tour alongside the dubstep megalith and iconic producers Diplo and Grimes. It was an odd pairing. Sure, Hundred Waters certainly utilized its share of synthesizers and digital elements to an impressive degree, yet the landing of their folk-inspired, multi-instrumental act on such a lineup of more electronic-focused musicians, plus their eventual signing to Skrillex’s OWSLA label, seemed a juxtaposition of sorts. Hundred Waters was plenty digital, but also quite natural—bathed in lightly plucked strings and soft, whimsical harmonies. Their latest, The Moon Rang Like a Bell, seems to bridge that gap, tipping the scales a little more toward digital favor, but still maintains that sense of mysticism and naturalistic allure.
Where Hundred Waters saw instruments all but duking it out for driving supremacy, burying hooks deep within layers of colliding lines both digital and non, Moon‘s hookiest moments are born not out of instrumental complexity, but rather from gradual builds and layered tensions. This is not to suggest that Moon is without complexity, or has any shortage of hooks, just that even its hookiest moments come from a more solemn, slow-developed place. It’s not a “poppy” album (not that Hundred Waters was, but Moon even less so), but it does have its punchy moments, buried mostly in the back half on tracks like “Down from the Rafters,” “[Animal]” and (perhaps their most moving, triumphant song to date) “Seven White Horses.”
By and large, Moon plays out as a largely introspective affair, often feeling like somewhat of a one-on-one with singer Nicole Miglis, due in no small part to the relative lack of spotlight on vocal harmonies, which is largely absent compared to its prior save for Miglis’ own occasionally layered vocals, which are often executed rather subtly. Further, slower-moving numbers like “Broken Blue” and “Chambers (Passing Train)” are largely centered on Miglis and her keys, with added flittered accompaniment accenting the mood as she illustrates it.
Rather than doling out hooks, direction and depth through intricate flurries of conjoined instrumentation like its predecessor, The Moon Rang Like a Bell focuses on a simpler formula, allowing docile verses to develop and capsize with big swells of tension and triumph. It’s the product of a band that’s clearly thinking on their feet, engaging with the conflicting styles of those around them and assimilating new behaviors without sacrificing their own, changing with the world around them to create something refreshingly distinct and beautifully engaging. - Robby Ritacco
The second full-length from Hundred Waters is not an evolution so much as a refinement. If 2012’s self-titled effort saw the band sketching out the borders of their sound, The Moon Rang Like a Bell finds them zeroing in on what they do best and going deeper. The production is improved in every way, but given how hushed and quiet they can be, the effect is still pretty subtle. Acoustic instruments have been jettisoned; the pillowy synths and layered vocals of singer Nicole Miglis nestle easily in the mix, sometimes leaving questions as to when one end and another begins. Indeed, the key to Hundred Waters’ rich and tactile atmosphere is that their machines never sound quite like machines, but everything sounds close; on “Murmurs”, distant piano is buried under reverb and digital crackle, sketching out chords with a vaguely gospel feel, as a strange voice sings a tune while so near to the microphone you can hear a tongue clicking against teeth. It’s an album that always feels like it’s whispering in your ear.
The band’s approach is difficult to place in a specific time. That’s not because their aesthetic is especially innovative or new, or because it seems like it’s from the future; rather, they bring to mind a moment when updating dusty old song structures with the tools of the present seemed like the next logical step in music. “Digital folk” was the term used in a review of their self-titled debut, and that captures it as well as anything: music that is both earthy and disembodied, with humans and electronics joining at some blissful halfway point. Hundred Waters thrive in the place where post-rock meets freak folk, and sing-song melodies are twisted into strange shapes by circuitry.
The connection to Björk is hard to overstate. Part of The Moon’s appeal is that it hearkens back to the style of Vespertine, the last album when Björk’s restlessly experimental music still had a foot in accessibility, before she took such a conceptual turn. There’s a similar sense of music-as-place here, and a desire to fuse ancient and modern in search of a new mode of expression. And in that respect, oddly enough, Hundred Waters remind me of another group from Iceland—Múm, in particular their 2000 album Yesterday Was Dramatic—Today is OK, an album sometimes described at the time as “folktronica.” These aren’t influences I’m talking about, necessarily, but ways of hearing what Hundred Waters are doing. It’s not a coincidence that these signposts are from music made around the turn of the millennium, when rapidly changing technology meant the future sound of pop was up in the air.
But if much of Björk’s power comes from her unpredictability, the feeling that a breathy sight could turn into a scream and a song might explode, Hundred Waters are always set to simmer. That mostly works in their favor on The Moon Rang Like a Bell, as the album’s strength comes from its gradually accruing moments. So the spell of the minute-long a cappella opener “Show Me Love” is broken by clear piano chords and miniature percussive explosions on “Murmurs” and then the following “Cavity” raises the intensity before the bright and twinkly “Out Alee” brings it back to earth. Sequenced beautifully, the record is full of these gentle arcs, and the sound is so consistent it can feel like a 49-minute piece broken into 12 movements. The impact of any one song is heightened by its proximity to what came before and what follows.
In an interview, Miglis highlighted the importance of her lyrics to The Moon Rang Like a Bell, but for me the album functions more like an instrumental album, where meaning comes from the sonics. On the page, her words are allusive and fragmented, hinting at moments of doubt and turmoil, but on record, the words come over as pure sound. There’s a moment about halfway through “Innocent” where Miglis breaks away from language and sings a “dah-dah-dah-do-dum” phrase, but with her voice coated in processed fuzz, she sounds like an amphibious creature prone to reverie. This line communicates as well as any phrase on the album. “Is it only in my head?”, she asks a moment later, and it wouldn’t be a bad subtitle for an album so steeped in imagination. -
The methods of Hundred Waters’ rise to underground fame seem inextricably tied to their invitation to Skrillex’s Full Flex Express Canadian Train Tour, as it’s only known that Sonny Moore came across the quartet’s self-titled debut and enjoyed it. Hundred Waters, an exploration into electronic and folk-inspired sounds, seemed completely awry in comparison to some of the more monstrously electronic and dance-oriented acts of Skrillex’s tour, including Grimes, Diplo, and Pretty Lights.
After releasing that debut and signing to Skrillex’s OWSLA label, Hundred Waters toured with the likes of Alt-J, The xx, Julia Holter, and Braids before composing their sophomore record, The Moon Rang Like a Bell. Opening track “Show Me Love” is immediately stripped of any expected electronic heaviness, with vocalist Nicole Miglis aching three iterations of the title, the third more potent and aggressive than the others. Following her outcry is second track “Murmurs”, featuring a relatively sad “Yesterday was your birthday/ Happy birthday,” full of a self-aware forgetfulness. As these emotional characters change form through some of the album’s tracks, Hundred Waters establishes an underpinning of ephemerality, a world where a temporary atmosphere exists simultaneously with feeling.
On electronics, guitars, and drums, Paul Giese, Zach Tetreault, and Trayer Tryon maintain this aestheticized atmosphere throughout the record, one redolent of the understanding of life’s transience, as experienced when immersed momentarily in a vast body of water. The music video for lead single “Cavity” captures a similar elegance; a strip of Miglis’s face sings, “You will make these feelings go away,” while the video transitions between flickering scenes of nighttime nature, lights, and moving stars.
With stress on experimentation and an often unintelligible Miglis (“Out Alee”, “Innocent”), the album’s first half features tracks reminiscent of the sound the band established with Hundred Waters. There are also two pure ambient tracks (one of them suitably titled “Chambers (Passing Train)”) that transition into the album’s more groundbreaking latter half.
Despite a similar apparent slowness, the four tracks that follow “Chambers” breathe with a fluidity that transcends any need for continuity in tempo. On “Down from the Rafters”, Miglis sighs, “Take a little pill, drown it out in laughter/ Take a little pill, maybe think about it after,” atop a set of nostalgic strings and ethereal, echoing chimes. The slow unity of the track is contrasted by the subsequent uptempo speed of “[Animal]“, which is followed by “Seven White Horses”, whose energy builds in great power as it culminates in an intense clash of drums and Miglis’s cries.
The series of four tracks concludes with “Xtalk”, appropriately another dance track, which begs, “Do you have time/ To lay around and pick out all the folly in me?” As the record comes to an end with the darkly ambient “No Sound”, a connection can be made to the album cover, a drawing interpreted from the inside of an airplane. Out of the windows is a swirling redness and a sad or crying moon, whose nighttime appearance signals the dark blue and purple transience The Moon Rang Like a Bell has successfully established through its seamless aesthetic sensitivity. - Zander Porter
"...bass ripples soothingly, sun-warped synths flicker out and make your hair stand on end, drones hum and shiver, and drums chatter like teeth... Hundred Waters' members make music to burrow deep into to obsess over." -NPR
"Hundred Waters’s own art-rock is rhapsodic and mercurial: pointillistic or gauzy, meditative or dramatic, near-jazzy or quasi-classical, a percussion workout or a rock processional." -NEW YORK TIMES
Hundred Waters (2012)
Chops have always been a touchy subject in indie rock circles, but at least it used to be fairly easy to know who had them before discussing whether or not they mattered. In 2012, it's rarer to find a band that doesn't incorporate button-pushing, vocal manipulation, or wholesale sampling as a primary compositional method-- how do you even begin to acknowledge the impact of technical proficiency outside of, say, AraabMuzik? On their gorgeous debut of bewitching digital folk, Hundred Waters find answers in a means similar to Braids' or Julia Holter's: Their stage setup might be a confounding tangle of cables and surge protectors, but there's a commitment to unapologetic, real-time virtuosity, compositional refinement, and vision that cuts through the nonchalant clutter of their peers. You can't pull of sounding this joyfully adventurous without being a serious musician.
The most obvious extension of that kind of serious musicianship is the Gainesville, Fla., quintet's confidence, and there are tangible ways in which it manifests here: Whether the pristine clarity of the production is the result of countless studio hours or just a monetary leap of faith (I'm more inclined to believe the former considering its tiny label), you immediately appreciate the investment of belief. And Hundred Waters streams for free on the band's website with the lyrics posted in plain sight, which might seem like a small gesture, but a heartening one if you think of how far out their way young bands go to obscure their words. If you have to shackle yourself to a computer, Hundred Waters allow and invite a more immersive listening experience in a terribly shallow format. Both make the same point: They're not afraid to ask for your full attention.
In a more abstract way, Hundred Waters plays out like a record unusually sure of itself despite having no obvious stylistic hook-- colleagues of mine have grasped at Broadcast and Dirty Projectors as comparisons, two bands who sound like hardly anyone else, let alone each other. I hesitate to use "folktronica" because I think the nomenclature can trigger more ill will than the music that was actually produced under that faux-genre, but that's really what you're getting here: Befitting a record with both "Sonnet" and "…---…" as song titles, Hundred Waters merges the digital and the antiquated sonically and lyrically. At their core, the songs are often in a folk tradition, albeit more towards the "freak-" than the coffee-shop type, vocalist Nicole Miglis heavily informed by pastoral England in terms of harmony and language. The lyrics to opener "Sonnet" are taken directly and entirely from a Percy Shelley verse of the same name, while the acoustic figures and woodwinds that vine upwards throughout it the suggest Espers' Ren Faire wake-and-bakes basking in sunshine rather than blacklights. Beyond the modal harmonies, there's an archaic poetry to these songs that some might find impossibly precious (note the spelling of "splendour" in the lyrics), but I find it congruent with the band's musical persona. "Boreal" and "Me & Anodyne" initially appear fantastical due to their purple wordplay, but they're stories grounded in the complexities of human relationships and the urge to opt out of modern mundanity. Likewise, focus on the ripeness of the lyrics, and you'll miss "Thistle" as an acrid sendoff written with a poisoned quill.
Occasionally, the faerie dust gets a little too thick (the free-time drum circle "Wonderboom" in particular), but even then you never get a sense that they're being overindulgent. More often, their playful side is where their virtuosity gets revealed: a nimble player piano roll that splits "Boreal" open, the expert deployment of syncopated kick drums accenting the chorus of "Me & Anodyne". "Visitor" starts off with the kind of half-melodic, half-percussive ripple of indistinct brass that's familiar in the wake of Animal Collective, yet it's a loop and a living thing, morphing into intriguing melodic shapes while the rhythm sections bustle skillfully. There are brief hat tips to glitch ("Thistle"), tUnE-yArDs' oblong rhythms ("Theia"), and the processor-spiked jazz of Four Tet ("Visitor"), but much of Hundred Waters is just love of pure sound. It's particularly evident on near-instrumental pieces like "Caverns", which layers a gorgeous backward loop over a heaving percussion for an effect that's similar to crystal stalactites described therein, both extremely dense and yet translucent, and meditative closer "Gather" features an ostinato piano line and rich cello acting out its hopeful epitaph ("We can crouch in sanctuary/ Or we can gather our threads into rope and pull.")
Throughout, it's evident how much of the hard work occurred in the planning stages, such is the simply staggering sophistication of these arrangements. Though mostly clocking in at under five minutes, no single track exposes its hooks too quickly and their tendency to explore phrases and shapes before locking into a groove evinces a foreground of both improvisation and skill that suggest Hundred Waters just might be an omnivorous jazz band. And above all, they're the kind of discovery it's easy to get excited about: Their debut does more than enough to stand on its own, not only ambitious in its own right, but leaving little doubt about Hundred Waters' capability of handling wherever their ambition takes them from here. -