Friday, May 12, 2017

Hundred Waters - Currency EP (2017)

When they released their newest single "Particle" earlier this week, Los Angeles based art pop collective Hundred Waters gave every indication that new music was on the horizon. Fortunately for fans that time is both now and later as the threesome stealth released a five song EP and have plans to release their third full length album sometime later this year. While the release of "Particle" certainly allowed for some speculation on the sound of their new album - the fact that it's one of several new songs featured on the EP (along with "Everywhere" a snippet of which was featured in a video announcing year 4's batch of FORM Arcosanti artists) is thrilling in that it essentially throws the little fans/listeners have come to expect right back into the murky unknown. The band have never been ones to repeat themselves and each release has been handled with cohesive care.

Hundred Waters' music as unlabelable and sidestepping in genre as it is has been firmly rooted in the electronic element. Much of the appeal of their self-titled record laid in just how elastic they treated the borders of acoustic and digitized sound, blurring the lines with various timbres. Its tapestry of textures arranged with monastic devotion and universal resonance that it was almost hard to believe it was real. As Hundred Waters' have grown over the years since their debut, they've given themselves over more and more to computerized sounds - enlisting a number of electronic leaning artists to rework songs, putting out EPs, and even a whole remix album featuring those works. The Currency EP is by all accounts a very logical step in the band's growth, and first single "Particle" featured a much more concrete synth pop direction and Hundred Waters seemed to take all the trappings and hallmarks of EDM and work them into the song. But Hundred Waters have from their onset been a band not like any other and even their dip into more straight forward pop was handled in a way uniquely their own. "Particle" combines Nicole Miglis' delicate vocals and emotion-stirring lyricism with production that's constantly in flux - at times simple and sparse and others multitudinous and lush. There's a push-pull for much of its duration often directly in line with the swing of certainty/uncertainty captured in Miglis' lyrics. The powerful lovelorn moments aiming high for the stratospheric and being given plenty to fit the expanse; the moments of devastated doubt coming down and hushing the rush of sounds. It's not hard to see why it was selected as a single: it's dynamic. Fraught with raw emotional thoughts and feelings.

But Currency begins with a moment of quiet. "Jewel In My Hands" begins with a soft chime that's much more morning-sun-peaking-through-your-bedroom-window than bedside alarm. It's a gentle start as Miglis' actual lyrics seek to rouse you: "Wake up, come on, go on, get up, get out of bed you're tired but this is most extraordinary" Miglis coos and essentially jumpstarts an adventure. It's a work of beguiling restraint - managing to build its various layers and sense of forward momentum without actually needing to raise its volume. It forms an interesting parallel with its succeeding track "Particle" which begins in a similar whisper but branch off in decidedly different ways. "Jewel In My Hands" seeks to retain that feeling of stage-whisper throughout eventually achieving a climactic break from the hushed state where "Particle" is more inclined to move through peaks and valleys.

The most surprising thing about Currency may be in how many different switch ups in sound occur.
Album closer "Currency", the track that gives the EP its name, feels not unlike a The Moon Rang Like A Bell outtake. It's siren-like effect as well as Nicole Miglis' vocal cadence easily reminiscent of "Cavity" where "Takeover" is the most percussive of Currency's tracks and starting out there, it's never quite able to shake that initial harshness. Or rather it never really tries to. It's another straight forward pop song but one far more rooted in live instrumentation than "Particle" if not the whole of Currency. Where much of Currency seems to either pick up directly after The Moon Rang Like A Bell or seek to move on from it, "Everywhere" recalls the dream pop of Hundred Waters' self-titled debut. It's a rare moment where Miglis' lyrical narrative doesn't dictate the direction of the song. Instead Miglis' vocals soar above, adorning the swirling vortex of sounds as it sprawls ever outward. It has an endless quality to it that the band acknowledge by essentially never trying to end it - letting it fade out.

As a whole Currency is a wonderful addition to Hundred Waters' growing catalog. It manages to experiment with the group's ongoing efforts to push themselves forward creatively and hints at both potential directions to them to take and roads not traveled. Wherever Hundred Waters' new album lands, Currency is sure to operate as a benchmark release as a document that captures where the band were creatively after The Moon Rang Like A Bell. That's not to say that it's much more worthy of comparison than The Moon Rang Like A Bell which was a wondrous record that pushed Hundred Waters in so many unexpected directions but the strength of songs like "Particle" and "Jewel In My Hands" is hopefully a sign of things to come from a band who is delightfully hard to predict and is absolutely enjoyable to listen to from beginning to end over and over.

Hundred Waters' Currency EP is out now and available to stream/buy/download from your preferred digital retailer.

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