Hundred Waters - Hundred Waters - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Hundred Waters - Hundred Waters

by Hiro Master Rating:6.5 Release Date:2012-11-26

A label headed by gut-busting dubstep king Skrillex is the last place you'd expect to be the home to Hundred Waters, who churn out the kind of whimsical folktronica which would have seasoned festival-goers with hay in their hair huddled around the up-and-comers stage in a heady spin. The hardcore rave supremo made the Florida quintet - Nicole Miglis, Sam Moss, Zach Tetreault, Trayer Tryon and Paul Giese - his first indie signing on OWLSA, where they are one step removed from noisy labelmates Skream, Nick Thayer, Sub Focus and Jack Beats, among others.

The band name derives from late contemporary Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser, whose surname is a literal translation, and whose body of work - expressive, freeform, colourful landscapes - have curiously been cited as a major influence. The inevitable encroachment of digital elements on all forms of music is at odds with the ancient art of folk, and 'nu-folk' is a hit-or-miss deal - it either works or it doesn't. In the case of Hundred Waters, the jury is still out.

Their self-titled debut album - a re-release following the step up from their previous grassroots label, Elestial Sound - is full of rich, textured musical tapestries, with sweeping melodies and densely layered compositions which falter when they are overcomplicated with overbearing digital percussion. Miglis's delicate voice bursts with infectious fervour, and she is allowed to let rip on 'Visitor', which chirps and washes over the listener, building up to a satisfying crescendo.

'Thistle', the record's first single, sounds unmistakably like Bjork in all aspects, with moody trip hop style production and oscillating harmonies. The disjointed 'Wonderbroom' carries on in a similar vein, with squelchy trods and sporadic bass licks. On the beautiful 'Caverns', a pretty, sparkling backdrop eases into a soft, warped accordion sequence and echoed drums. The opening line - "So quietly, it seemed to happen, so softly" - is again reminiscent of the Icelandic oddball's biggest hit, 'It's Oh So Quiet'.

For every accomplished composition, there is a song dominated by clunky, chaotic rhythms which sees instrumental experimentation taken that step too far, and results in Miglis's vocals being drowned out. A case in the point is the drum 'n' bass-paced 'Me and Anodyne', which sounds like a orchestra of schoolchildren scraping and striking the nearest thing in sight. '· · · - - - · · ·' is punctuated (see what I did there?) by a scitty drum track with computerised growls and bleeps, but it fails to get off the ground.

On the other side of the coin, we have the dainty 'Sonnet', and it is the song which shows they can do the fundamentals of traditional folk music well - a well-written acoustic song evoking imagery of misty mornings in the English countryside, but it's round-the-campfire charm lacks an edge, and it ends up being a passable, but ultimately forgettable track.

Hundred Waters is a sonic kaleidoscope which can leave you mesmerised and off-kilter in equal measure, and you feel that it is a record best performed live, with the recording of the music giving it a polish that comes at the expense of something intangible; an imperfection that adds a certain authenticity and cannot be recreated superficially.

It would be unfair to judge the album on this basis, however, and despite not being the most cohesive effort, there are undeniably diamonds in the rough with some choice songs striking a winning formula. Hundred Waters show that they are no slouches when it comes to putting a song together using a plethora of production techniques.

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