The Moon Rang Like a Bell
★★★★★ (out of 5 stars)
When Gainesville’s Hundred Waters released their 2012 debut full-length, they showcased a fondness for the extravagant. From pop-world beats to trilling orchestral elements and grand whimsical gestures, the group had a knack for big movements (see “Boreal”).
When “wub wub” extraordinaire Sonny Moore, aka Skrillex, caught onto the serenity in this amalgamation of electronic and folk sensibility, it didn’t take long for Hundred Waters to strike up a deal with Moore’s OWSLA label, release a remix EP, make a little line-up change, move out west to Los Angeles and even shift the musical direction, if only a bit.
The Moon Rang Like a Bell is the final result, the quartet’s second full-length and first on OWSLA. More intimate, more cozy, more haunting and minimal, this album is somehow a little bit more by being just a little bit less.
“Show Me Love” opens with Nicole Miglis’ a capella vocal ringing and harmonizing with itself like an incantation. The prayerful song is deeply private, and that’s felt in Miglis’ up-close delivery.
Leading singles like “Cavity” and “Xtalk” take us to a different end of the spectrum, though, with the former boosting the bass and upping the drama while the latter ups the pace with the same majestic and danceable awareness that made their debut album so cherished. “You love who floods,” Miglis sings, holding onto the notes like she’s using her dying breath. Electronic whirring builds up for a volatile finish, reminding us that Hundred Waters are still capable of such moments.
At times, these songs manage to glitter in their gloomy atmosphere. Tracks such as “Broken Blue” and “Chambers (Passing Train)” are chilling in their skeletal nature, a heaviness that doesn’t require many elements other than the occasional bass drum pulse, a whirling synthesizer and Miglis’ writhing intonation. Those moments are balanced by positively poppy and buoyant tunes like “[Animal],” much due to drummer Zach Tetreault’s live and tracked percussion flair. Sometimes steady, other times erratic and unpredictable, the rhythm of this album is proud and persistent, even when the drums themselves are absent.
Bounding between bellowing electronic darkness and eccentric pop proclamations, The Moon Rang Like a Bell poises itself as a richer journey into the poetic minds of these four ambitious musicians. For a band so keen on toying with vocals, Hundred Waters have clearly come one step closer to finding their voice.