On their self-titled 2012 album, Hundred Waters almost sounded almost like a folk band, albeit one that encompassed bits of R&B, pop, and electronica. The woodwinds, acoustic instruments and circuitous, harmony-wreathed vocal melodies brought to mind handed-down British ballads, while the shimmery synth tones and arty expansiveness signaled other affinities. And what were they doing on EDM godhead Skrillex’s label, anyway? They were fascinating, but impossible to identify. On their vivid, enthralling follow-up The Moon Rang Like a Bell, they emerge confidently as the slightly alien bards of our post-digital global village.
Though opener “Show Me Love,” made up only of frontwoman Nicole Miglis’s layered vocals, has a spiritual tint that recalls 19th-century staple “Down in the River to Pray,” the theme is humanistic — the stuff of Robyn and Robin S. — and the a cappella is only a studio construction. With fellow singer Samantha Moss no longer in the group, Miglis’s nuanced lilt is the main constant, and she ties together the cinematically foreboding “Cavity,” the rave-squiggled “[Animal]” and the pulsing slow jam “Innocent.”
The lyrics tend toward fragments, but we don’t have to know the reason for the fog and pills on yearning, understated advance track “Down from the Rafters” to get lost in it. Ultimately Hundred Waters’ muse is as unknowable as the specific sources of their whirring instrumental textures. No wonder they scheduled their album release event at an “urban laboratory” in the Arizona desert. This is music that brings out the grandeur and strangeness of both the natural world and the one we have made.