The new album, The Moon Rang Like A Bell, by Gainesville’s Hundred Waters is a breathtaking, emotionally-charged, vocal landscape from start to finish. They showcase an interesting mix of folk and electronica (dubbed folktronica), and can be compared to acts like The XX, James Blake, or even Dirty Projectors. This is the second album by this five-piece band, their first being the self-titled Hundred Waters. The New York Times said the following to describe their live performance: “a watercolor wash of possibilities, a suspension of time, an embrace of textural experiment and open-ended expectations.”
Hundred Waters was formed in 2011 and started while the band members were studying together at the University of Florida. Famous producer Sonny Moore (Skrillex) and his label OWSLA noticed the band after the demo of their first album started circulating among producers. He then invited them to join him and a few other acts on tour in Canada. They then signed with OWSLA in August 2012.
The name of the band is a tribute to Austrian painter Friedensreich Hundertwasser and his philosophy and approach to life, which the band also embodies in their music.
On The Moon Rang like a Bell, Hundred Waters has distilled their sound, from their individualistic debut album, into a refined sonic scape. Their new sound incorporates more flowing electronics and micro beats than the previous album, which had a more organic and guitar driven sound. One immediately noticeable feature of the album is the strong vocal lines of front-woman Nicole Miglis. Most of the time, the vocals are layered to no end, but when it is just one channel of her startling voice, it hits like hammer. The opening of the second track, “Murmurs”, is an a’capella snippet put on a one second loop, which starts out as inaudible, but the longer it loops, the clearer the words become, until it seamlessly flows into the verse. Their use of vocals to create tension is a very rare gift that very few bands possess.
The album is full of tense moments where a few of the instruments disappear and then reappear with a jolt, but rather then startle the listener, it flows back into the song with grace. They are able to create musical ‘drops’ similar to that of major drum and bass artist, but instead of a drum machine and a looping electronic hook, they use gentle electronic drums and sliding guitars with perfect execution.
One criticism would be that, later on in the album, the songs often gets lost in a void. It is almost as if the songs invite the listener into a room with beautiful art, only leave them alone and confused about where they are to go from there. The album could have been a more coherent, ‘book-ended’ piece.
Opening track “Show Me Love” is the perfect way for them to introduce what is to follow. It is a completely a’capella song where the Miglis pleas to God to guide her intentions. It reads and sounds like a prayer:
Don’t let me show cruelty
Though I may make mistakes
Don’t let me show ugliness
Though I know I can hate
And don’t let me show evil
Though it might be all I take
Show me love
This flows into the second track, “Murmurs”, where Miglis tells a lover “I wish you could see what I see.” This is testament to Hundred Waters not asking questions, but making statements in their music. Miglis goes on to use imagery of candles blowing out as their relationship fades from view. Throughout the album it is clear that, although the lyrics do tell a story, the focus is on how the musical arrangements tell it, and not necessarily the words.
Hundred Waters – The Moon Rang Like A Bell (OWSLA, 2014)