Release Date: Oct 16, 2012
Record label: INgrooves
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Electronic, Indie Pop
Hundred WatersHundred Waters[OWSLA; 2012]By David Wolfson; October 19, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGOver the past year, the American indie rock scene has seen a small but notable influx of bands from the Sunshine State. Perhaps the most exciting of the group has been Merchandise, a trio who have become outliers to Tampa’s hardcore scene by expanding their sound into post-punk and new wave. Then there’s Levek, a Gainesville-based musician whose woodsy recordings have become the current torch-bearer for the sounds popularized by Animal Collective’s Feels.
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.
Even if you removed the vocal contributions of Nicole Miglis, which are a crucial element of the finished product, the instrumental tracks on Hundred Waters' self-titled debut album would be intriguing all by themselves. A shape-shifting swirl of electronically tweaked textures runs through the record, touching on everything from ambient atmospheres to techno-derived grooves, glitchy IDM moves, and occasional jazzy touches. Sonic experimentalist Trayer Tryon and company have created an electro-acoustic framework that's simultaneously labyrinthine and accessible, which is no easy trick.
It’s been a rough couple of years for bands tied to folk-tronica. The genre has become contemporary easy listening built to soundtrack an overpriced sushi dinner in a chic hotel restaurant, or perhaps music that gets drowned out by the roar of a Starbucks frother. Critical respect has been lagging, but a new bright spot has appeared in Hundred Waters.
I must admit to being a little perplexed by Hundred Waters. I try to image Skrillex, dubstep (bro-step or electro, if you prefer) crossover artist de jour scouting for artists for his new OWSLA label and settling on a Florida five-piece who specialize in a rather inaccessible form of experimental lounge electronica. It’s far outside the realm of the Ultra festival and though many of the melodies, samples and pads that make up the record are electronically generated, it’s oblivious to the dance floor, preferring a sort of artistic self-indulgence.
When you’ve got a hook as tantalizingly unique as “indie folk band signs to Skrillex’s label,” there’s probably a sense of complacency that can creep into the music. Hundred Waters have that intriguing narrative, but rather than settling on their brostep brethren’s co-sign-by-proxy, the Gainesville band decided to create an album of beauty and clarity. That second word is a big one for the band; there’s no reverb to muddle what is, at heart, a very earthy record.