Hundred Waters is starting to live up to its name. The watery expanse implied in the band’s moniker that may have been slightly dried up in the sunny near-folk of their 2012 self-titled debut is now in the midst of a tidal change. Whereas Hundred Waters imbued the vaguely pastoral into its synth-shivering experimentation, The Moon Rang Like A Bell is darker and more aware of itself. If Hundred Waters was the shoreline, The Moon is way out in the middle of the ocean.
The fact that the album title reads like the intro to a poem sets the tone for the 12 tracks that follow. Nicole Miglis’ airy croon is compacted with emotion; an emotion that trails through the LP, telling a story of unsteady love and hopeless resignation. “‘Cause seeing him is easy when no one’s around/Finding him’s easy when he’s all that you’ve found,” she whispers over the synth-swirled, heart-pounding beat of Cavity. Broken Blue is washed in Imogen Heap-like vocal tweakings, Miglis’ words white-washed until they become nearly indiscernible in a flood of icy keys and misty reverb.
Murmurs is an album stand-out, yet par for the course. With a building electronic despair reminiscent of Lightning Dust, the song staggers in a cyclical motion with repeated phrases and looped vocals. Innocent is also great, utilizing slooooow percussion and Disney-like ethereality to create a sense of spinning complacency. The lowest points on The Moon come when the album feels just a little too cohesive, to the point of boredom, like when Broken Blue fades into Chambers (Passing Train) with not so much as a hint at anything that might quicken your pulse.
I’ll say this: the album is better than I expected it to be. The Moon Rang Like A Bell is both subtly understated and completely overstated. It’s delicate, late-night whisperings and rooftop yellings. And yet, in the face of all these seemingly opposing juxtapositions, it knows exactly what it’s doing, and exactly what it wants to be.