9/6/14 – Hundred Waters – The Moon Rang Like A Bell – 2014

Hundred Waters - The Moon Rang Like A Bell - Cover Art - 2014Hundred Waters are an Indie Folktronica band from Gainesville, Florida and The Moon Rang Like A Bell is their second album. They were signed to Skrillex’s label, OWSLA after their self-titled 2012 debut. They released  the Thistle EP on OWSLA in 2013. The band is a four piece with Paul Giese on electronics and guitars, Nicole Miglis on vocals, keys and flute, Zach Tetreault on drums and vocals and Trayer Tryon on electronics and  guitars.

The album opens with short a cappella track Show Me More before the journey begins into their intriguing world of beats, sampled and real vocals, intoxicating melodies and smart arrangements. Although Murmurs the second track has a more Pop, Electronic, Modern Soul feel to it, it’s more reminiscent of an English sound but from here on the record gets much more interesting.

Cavity is the first single from the album and it takes us on unpredictable journeys through deserts and sand dunes in exotic landscapes, it’s somewhere between Björk and Enigma with a sweeter vocal but the instrumental backing is imaginative and powerful, there’s a vision here.

You hear that vision again on Out Alee, stopping and starting like different scenes in the same dream. Liquid keyboard patterns and synthesiser surges sit atop sub-bass and fractured drumming. It’s simply creative, adventurous and from this rumbling electronic bass to momentary parlour piano and other-worldly vocals, you can imagine a whole new world being born.

Innocent is next with a manipulated steel drum, sped up into the verse and a penetrating melody, a melody that seems to throw out searching tentacles as it feels its way through the piece of music. It must have taken them so long to work it all out – at 3 minutes into the song you have no idea what’s going to happen next. The song is full of surprises and at 4 minutes there’s another one.

Broken Blue is next with a distorted keyboard that sounds it was recorded from another room in the boudoir of a 19th century classical composer and preserved here. A vocal from the present follows it into the past and creates its unsuspecting future. Angels appear, waves crash and roll onto rocks and retreat back to the small room, before a power from another world tries to break through, falls away and tries again before being carried off into the stars.

It seems to segue way nicely into Chambers (Passing Train) and here you get the purity of Nicole Miglis’ vocal, sung, then held into a repeat pattern over distant electronics, medieval trumpets and reverb drum that evolves into ancient Japanese string instruments reversed and played by a 25th century geisha – it’s a magical piece.

Down From The Rafters, introduces organic instruments from the beginning. Something from another time, strings and accordion type instruments breathe their organic breath into this beautiful folky piece, but it’s electronic accompaniment is never far away. It’s like a primitive village, wood fires, spits and ragged children running around – animals everywhere, straw baskets full of fruit and the toil of the day in evidence. At the same time a giant shining pedestal stands above them with the image of a goddess, a statue made of impossible metals, transmitting colours and sounds, wisdom and technology to the universe. It’s the ultimate hybrid between traditional folk and digital technology – it’s groundbreaking.

The electronics really kick in on the next track, Animal – it really could be Klaus Schulze, German, electronic pioneer. The vocals change it to something of its own and the rhythm takes it more towards Kraftwerk/Kraut incessant sequencers. It’s dancey and listenable, thoughtful and vibrant, simultaneously modern and old fashioned.

Seven White Horses is more in Snowbird territory, Nicole Miglis via Stephanie Dosen, in turn via Liz Fraser – it’s something in the melody. I’m surprised that this one got away from Simon Raymonde and Bella Union as it really slots perfectly into his label’s raison d’être. There’s something too of Björk in the vocal and beautiful cascading electronic sounds that fall from the sky like wise and friendly aliens. The song goes places too, it’s a unique frenzy, the vision is here again as it takes on the dynamics of rock using only it’s electronic palette and vocal. It’s really quite brilliantly done.

Xtalk sounds like the beginning of U2’s New Year’s Day if they had been born in the nineties instead of the sixties. Then it’s a mixture of the Sundays, Shelleyan Orphan and a whole lot of bands that Hundred Waters have probably never heard. It’s the cyclic nature of music, these ideas float around in the ether for eternity and now they are here for this wonderful group to pick them out of the air and handle them with all the love, care and delicacy they deserve  and need to make them their own.

No Sound, the last track is simply beautiful, like it was brought down from the mountains of Armenia or the plains of Kazakhstan, discovered in a jewel-laden box, lost for centuries and discovered in a forgotten secret tomb of mystical warrior maidens. It captures the past in a jar and holds the future in a shining sphere.

This album does what most consciously modern record fails to do, it transcends genres, it effortlessly straddles then and now, it’s both sensitive and brave as well as mesmerising whilst liable to make you lose control of your body.

This record is essential.