Music for Music's Sake
Skrillex-signed electronic ensemble Hundred Waters brings its category-defying music to Eagle Rock
By Bliss Bowen 07/31/2014
Pounding EDM beats are what most listeners would expect from an electronic band on Skrillex’s OWSLA label. But Hundred Waters, the first indie band signed to OWSLA, confound such expectations.
Comprised of vocalist/keyboardist Nicole Miglis, bassist Trayer Tryon, guitarist Paul Giese and drummer Zach Tetreault, Hundred Waters craft deceptively intricate compositions. The 12 tracks on “The Moon Rang Like a Bell,” one of this year’s most artful albums, unfold carefully amidst shifting time signatures, rich melodies and electronic effects both metallic and ethereal, all humanized by Miglis’s breathy vocals. Elements of their sound call to mind Radiohead, Bjork, Joni Mitchell and (not unlike some of Mitchell’s recordings) deep jazz — though the sum of all those elaborately assembled parts doesn’t actually sound like anyone else. It’s music for music’s sake, and that’s precisely what makes “The Moon Rang Like a Bell” so refreshing to the ear.
Longstanding relationships between bandmates likely contribute to the music’s intimate textures. Tryon, Tetreault and Giese started playing together in various lineups in middle school; in 2009, while sharing a house and studying at the University of Florida in Gainesville, they teamed with Miglis, a fellow student. She eventually moved into the band house, where they collaborated on what became their self-titled 2012 debut album. Skrillex signed them to OWSLA later that year and promptly issued a remix EP, “Thistle,” along with a re-release of “Hundred Waters.” Heavy touring followed, opening for Julie Holter and sharing stages with Diplo and Pretty Lights. “The Moon Rang Like a Bell” was released in May to widespread acclaim.
The Floridians have since become citizens of the road, collecting mail in Los Angeles. Much of the new album was composed as they traveled.
It opens with the prayerful “Show Me Love,” the set’s most lyrically direct song (“Don’t let me show cruelty though I may make mistakes/ Don’t let me show ugliness though I know I can hate”), with Miglis’ shivery vocal draped in harmonies and reverb. Even when raising her soprano against percussive counter-rhythms and crescendoing synths, as on “Cavity” and the exceptional “Down From the Rafters,” Miglis sings as though whispering secrets. By the time the album closes with the spacey, six-minute “No Sound,” she and her bandmates have presented a cinematic work as deeply conceptual as the modern art they favor. (Their band name is inspired by Austrian painter/architect Friedrich Hundertwasser, and they recently hosted a three-day musical happening at Arcosanti, an architecture- and ecology-celebrating experimental community in central Arizona.)
Practical concert concerns were reportedly kept in mind while creating “The Moon Rings Like a Bell,” since they experienced difficulties presenting their earlier music in live settings. Anyone attending their highly recommended show Thursday is advised to check expectations at the door.
Hundred Waters appear in concert at the Center for the Arts Eagle Rock, 2225 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock, 8 p.m. Thursday, July 31; $12.50-$15. Info: (323) 226-1617. hundred-waters.com