opinion byRAJ DAYAL
The ethereal shape-shifting voice of singer Nicole Miglis is the foundation of indie rock/art pop group, Hundred Waters, but it also allows the music to float away.
On The Moon Rang Like a Bell, the band’s second full-length album, listeners are presented with Miglis’ enigmatic lyrics set against a dense soundscape of instruments that might be electronic, acoustic or some beautifully mangled version of both. However, the songs on this new album are more than simple atmospherics. Hundred Waters aims for emotional resonance even if they choose to employ sonic experimentation.
The album’s solemn opener, “Show Me Love,” is a sobering exploration of inner strength. Miglis’ voice is looped and layered providing the only instrumentation. Her inspirational hymn asks for help: “Don’t let me show cruelty/ though I may make mistakes.” Starting off with music this poignant can often come off as cloying, but juxtaposed with genre-bending production strangely enough makes for a more authentic experience.
Miglis sounds like she’s alone in a room with you when she sings—a whisper that turns into a strained falsetto. On one of the memorable tracks on the album, “Cavity,” the band fills that room with music so layered with bass and percussive elements that when Miglis’ voice is once again layered, it seems omnipresent. Most of the lyricism on the The Moon Rang Like a Bell is impressionistic and the band excels at painting an emotional portrait. As Miglis sings the ominous chorus, “You make these feelings go away,” the anxiety and frustration of heartbreak are hard to miss.
Multi-instrumentalists Paul Giese and Trayer Tryon, as well as, drummer Zach Tetreault coalesce to compliment Miglis’ serpentine voice in a way that makes the music sound like it’s from the future. On “Innocence,” hisses and ghostly echoes from machines wash over Miglis’ delivery as she rhetorically asks: “Innocent, innocent/ Why do I worry if you’re innocent?”
On the lush “Down From the Rafters,” the musicianship of the band is at the forefront. Hundred Waters creates a slow-burn textured song that offers listeners plenty to discover, such as when Miglis spookily sings, “I’ve wandered through water/ Since the morning I heard you/ You were half alive/ But that mud inside/ Is the same mud that makes me love you.” It’s hard to decipher whether it’s a plea, a memory or a threat.
On The Moon Rang Like a Bell, Hundred Waters offers an album of quiet moments of subtlety juxtaposed with crashing waves of desperation. Hundred Waters is a fully realized band in unquestionable command of their scope and purpose. They use the extremes of electronic production and manipulation as exploration and not exploitation. So I guess in the future, music is still beautiful. B+