Gainesville’s Hundred Waters open their record with nothing but a voice. Nicole Miglis is the one constant on ‘The Moon Rang Like a Bell’, an album that zig-zags between anxiety, apprehension and unhinged joy without any warning throughout its 12 tracks.
This voice of hers - it’s brittle on the outside, but it has this strange ability to hold its own in any circumstances. It’s a voice that’s manipulated to extremes. ‘Show Me Love’ opens the record with a poem, but there onwards, Miglis is a constant, flicking between looped, pitch-shifted yelps to overlapped chorus chants.
It’s Miglis’ voice that holds ‘The Moon Rang Like a Bell’ together - in an album that shows considerable progression from a 2012 self-titled debut, every speck of this record is all about supporting a vocal. Words are meaningful, if abstract. They deal with heavy themes and the sadness they convey is obvious and ground-shaking. That wouldn’t be the case if Hundred Waters didn’t spend the vast majority of their time using their instruments like they’re tools from a different planet. Keys sound like actual sobs, beats like the clattering heartbeat of someone on the brink.
‘Cavity’ yearns and aches. ‘Down From The Rafters’ uses organic, pagan beginnings and somehow morphs into a distant, electronic drone by its conclusion. It’s difficult to know where everything’s coming from, or indeed how to keep track. This is a record that deals with a confused sense of beauty. ‘[Animal]’ sounds like a thousand gadget apps starting up at the same time, the future zooming in and overwhelming the conscience. ‘Innocent’ is dripping with cool, but in its grace and its perfectionism, there’s a discomforting backdrop. The same applies for almost all of this record. It’s a collection of barely-held together fragments that could split open and explode at any time - there’s a tension at play that recalls ‘Kid A’-era Radiohead or Sufjan Stevens at the peak of his digital fascination with ‘The Age of Adz’.
But then it all falls back to that voice. It’s less a human emotion, more a tool. The only thing stopping ‘The Moon Rang Like a Bell’ from collapsing under its own scatterbrained thoughts is this glue of a vocal. Hundred Waters lay out all their cards on this album and use every single tiny part for all its worth.