That voice is here once more. That breathy, sweet coo held in space by an organic web of sounds: half science, half painting, half everything and nothing at once. That thin daydreaming thread of high whispering that feels like some strange bird has flown into a tree inside your head, right between your ears. There’s plenty of air between notes, giving the musical structure the feel of a Japanese garden surrounding a modern, curvy building. Ha! That’s the core: the juxtaposition of natural landscaping and a sort of clean, feminine technology to compliment it.
So, will Hundred Waters go to the electronica shelf? Not a chance… Indie? Pfff… I wouldn’t be so cruel as to put anyone there anymore. “Show us to the Recycle Bin of your PC, but not the indie folder pleeeeaaaassse!!!”- begged Jonsi as I shuffled music files like a demon going through his collection of souls and skulls, thinking: “this makes for a nice drinking skull. Mhhh… I’ll see it in pink.”
The lyrics are sublime: “Seeing him is easy when no one’s around / seeing him is easy when all that you’ve found / are gardens and sirens all move to the sound / of little worms writhing”. I know “writhing” doesn’t rhyme with sound, dammit. But the images…
The album starts slowly, like the sun taking its time to change its pajamas into something dressier behind a patch of fluffy clouds. If your heart is aching, skip track 2 ‘Murmurs’, or it will crush you like a silent wave of nostalgia. From ‘Cavity’ onwards, Hundred Waters’ engine purrs, not with a big roar but more with the sweet calm of a river running deep, pausing here and there to erode the rocks with the gentle touch of infinite love.
Then comes ‘Out Alee’, the one that grabbed me by the ears upon first listen with its sweeping, elegant 7/8 pattern melting into 4/4 so naturally that you don’t even notice you are hearing complex music. So beautiful that you forget irregular rhythm patterns are for guys with beards and Pink Floyd t-shirts attending Porcupine Tree shows while secretly loving Radiohead. Then ‘Innocent’ responds to the previous song, with those eerie chords that sound all but innocent.
Tracks 6 through 8 will only work when you’re in the mood for “vespertine-like” atmospherics. The next 3, ‘[Animal]’, ‘Seven white horses’ and ‘Xtalk’ show you this band at its most uplifting and will make you feel good even if stuck in traffic after a journey of everyone around you constantly discussing soccer as if it were a vital function. Last but not least, the sublime album wrapper ‘No sound’, more vespertine atmospherics, but this time completely justified as the track is at the end of the story, ready to send us off to bed, right into lucid dreaming… hopefully by then you’ll be out of traffic and forgotten all about the collective mindlessness of professional sports and how people should care about… other stuff I guess, like posting puppies and kitties on their Facebook profiles more often. Oh yes and the environment… that’s good too.
Mind you, though… to fully appreciate these artful yet accessible sounds it might take a bit more attention than the one you pay to supermarket pop music. You’ve been warned.
Editor’s note: We reviewed Hundred Waters’ Pitchfork show during SXSW.
Words: Air Nest ‘the gangster of love’ Vera