Release Date: Aug 20, 2013
Record label: Partisan
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Much like fellow Memphis Industries’ stablemate James Mathé (Barbarossa), guitarist Daniel Hindman and keyboardist Sarah Versprille have built their reputations through playing as part of another band – in this case, indie folk outfit Vetiver. Yet much like Mathé again, the two have caused a stir since going their own way. Pure Bathing Culture’s eponymous EP whetted many’s appetites and this full-length debut attempts to build on the seductively gentle shoegazey-cum-hazy pop showcased there.
In nine short songs, Pure Bathing Culture’s Moon Tides whisks the listener to a desolate, sunny, Scandinavian beach for an all-too-brief while. With shimmering Galaxie 500 guitars, Stephin Merritt melodies and huge choruses with focused pop production, it’s near perfection for a debut. “Twins” jangles before the joy of the chorus dawns majestically; “Only Lonely Lovers” croons as a lullaby on a sunny day.
It’s a shame that Beach House has its equal share of admirers and detractors. When I reviewed Bloom, and gave the record a perfect score, there were howls of outrage levelled at me for overhyping the long player from Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand. So, a word of caution here, folks. If you absolutely hate Beach House, and simply cannot stand their music, when Portland, Oregon’s Pure Bathing Culture comes walking down the street, you will want to quickly cross to the other side, make the sign of the cross, and move on with your journeys.
Listening to Pure Bathing Culture's debut album Moon Tides is like sinking deep into a dream that's soundtracked by a lo-fi version of the Cocteau Twins. The duo of Sarah Versprille and Daniel Hindman are firmly in debt to the brilliance of the Twins, building a sound that's all chorused guitars, clunky drum machines, and wintry female vocals, but also adding plenty of modern chillwave textures, a little frozen R&B, some nocturnal synth pop, and most importantly, writing some beautiful songs to go with the imaginatively weird sounds. Working with producer Richard Swift, the duo get a firm grip on the heartstrings right away and don't let go until the last shimmering notes of the record fade away.
Pure Bathing Culture, aka Portland-based Daniel Hindman and Sarah Versprille, make music for the last days of summer. Recalling the gauzy, sun-dappled haze of Beach House and the dreamier side of Fleetwood Mac, these are nine pillowy songs to bury yourself in. As with anything that falls under the "dream pop" banner, however, there's the danger that Moon Tides will wash over you on first listen – it's all wheezing drum machines, crystalline acoustic guitar figures and Versprille's textured, often indefinable vocals.
Uprooting from Brooklyn to Portland makes sense when you're an artist that makes balmy dream pop. For Pure Bathing Culture, it completely inspired their debut album, Moon Tides. Musical/romantic couple Sarah Versprille and Daniel Hindman (who tour as members of Sub Pop folkies Vetiver) one day began making music together. After hearing last year's EP, Richard Swift (Foxygen, the Shins) offered to produce their album at his scenic National Freedom studio in Cottage Grove, OR.
Following last year's acclaimed self-titled EP, Portland duo Pure Bathing Culture return with a meticulously crafted dream pop treat that makes the perfect soundtrack to face the end of the summer. Besides the album being inspired by tides and water - the element 'often associated with human emotion', they report - and besides the relaxing images their name evokes, it is the hybrid nature of their sound, at once so obfuscating and gleaming, which perfectly suits transitions. With a background as members of folksters Vetiver and recent collaborators with Damien Jurado and Foxygen respectively, guitarist Daniel Hindman and keyboardist/singer Sarah Versprille are often compared to Fleetwood Mac (whose hit 'Dreams' they masterly covered for a tribute compilation also from last year), but it's the refined, washed out reverie of Cocteau Twins and Prefab Sprout that instantly comes to mind.
Pure Bathing Culture is a band that's steeped in the past, though the enduring effect of their debut Moon Tides is one of disorientation rather than nostalgia. Encounter any of its nine tracks, and “what year is this?” is a question asked with genuine befuddlement, not sarcasm. Their entire presentation-- the band name, the album title, the aquamarine cover, Sarah Versprille and Daniel Hindman relocating from Brooklyn to Portland-- instantly recalls pure blogging culture, something from the deadbeat summer of 2009.
Vetiver refugees Daniel Hindman and Sarah Versprille have created one of the few bands to compare themselves to Cocteau Twins and actually hit somewhere near that mark. The pair have rechristened themselves Pure Bathing Culture and have delivered a glossy, breezy debut album. Moon Tides feels lightweight and effortless, its buoyant temperament a key selling point; Versprille's soft voice floats over and through the roomy mix of keyboards, mechanical rhythms, and sparkling-clean guitars, reminiscent of Bryan Ferry during Roxy's rosier moments.
Controller of emotions, influencer of the tides and the menstrual cycle, the moon is a symbol in the night sky full of mythical constellations used by ship navigators for centuries. In literature and in music, the moon appears everywhere; one of my favorite lines about it comes from Samuel Beckett: "Let me hear nothing of the moon, in my night there is no moon, and if it happens that I speak of the stars it is by mistake. " It's ubiquitousness is also in music, ranging over many styles, from the jazz standard "How High The Moon", to the rock-stomper of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Bad Moon Rising," Pink Floyd's album The Dark Side Of The Moon, Neil Young's Harvest Moon, Nick Drake's Pink Moon, Ozzy's Bark At The Moon, and now to Pure Bathing Culture's Moon Tides, the debut album of the Portland, Oregon duo Sarah Versprille and Daniel Hindman, out now on Memphis Industries.
Portland, Oregon’s Pure Bathing Culture isn’t the first to dip into an ’80s soft rock palette this decade, but they seem more eager than most to probe at the potential dissonance within the recycled genre. Last year, the duo’s self-titled debut EP slathered flimsy, pastel guitar riffs and plastic drum beats over ripe-pain lyrics like “I wish my heart was deep enough/ So deep that I could keep you, love.” Instrumentally, they might neatly echo Beach House, but Sarah Versprille’s lyrics cut closer to Purity Ring’s fragile, feminine horror. Moon Tides sees the band at a level of technical clarity several notches above the mud of their 2012 EP.
Pure Bathing Culture might only have a self-titled EP and now debut album Moon Tides under their belt, but Sarah Versprille (vocals and keyboards) and Daniel Hindman (guitar) have already built up a fairly extensive CV in the American indie-folk scene as members of Laurel Canyon revivalists Vetiver, and contributors to recent albums by Foxygen and Damien Jurado, under the aegis of multi-instrumentalist and producer-of-choice Richard Swift. Having already produced PBC’s idyllic EP, Swift is back behind the boards for Moon Tides, an elegant set of gleaming guitar lines, lapping synths and woozy West Coast mysticism that gently recalls a forest of influences in the seeding of its sun-dappled world. As on their EP, Pure Bathing Culture’s focus is firmly on the interplay between Hindman’s echoing guitar and Versprille’s fragile vibrato.
Pure Bathing Culture might sound like magenta sunsets, swaying palm trees and faded pastel paint peeling off the front of quaint beach houses, but they’re actually landlocked by seventy miles in Portland, Oregon. It’s more likely, then, that Daniel Hindman and Sarah Versprille swim in the Willamette River that runs through the middle of the city, life guarded by the distant buttes of the Boring Lava Field. It’s less daunting than the deep, blue Pacific Ocean, and the wild waves are replaced by gentle easy-to-contend with ripples and a warm unobjectionable breeze.