Ethereal and dreamlike, Hundred Waters’ work is near-impossible to assign to a genre. They’ve been compared to Four Tet, Animal Collective and Dirty Projectors, but the only real thing these four bands have in common is their inability to be likened to other artists. Hundred Waters’ gorgeously-produced self-titled debut was complex but understated, flirting with acoustic and electronic elements in delicate balance. The follow-up, The Moon Rang Like A Bell, is similar, but by no means identical.
After a beautiful acapella intro barely more than a minute in running time, second track ‘Murmurs’ is opened by a looping vocal sample and juddering bass, both more modern and less muted than anything on the first album. These give way to something far closer to their previous echoing, almost choral sound—yet it’s still somehow stronger and more powerful than anything they’ve produced before. It’s a decent opener, and sets The Moon Rang… off to a strong start.
‘[Animal]’ is undoubtedly the greatest departure in style that Hundred Waters have ever released: strongly rhythmic, electronic beats and a decidedly up-tempo feel are more or less the last things one would expect to hear from a Hundred Waters track, yet it doesn’t feel out of place in the slightest. The more experimental features blend with the rest of the track perfectly, subtly demonstrating the band’s downplayed but incredible production.
Hundred Waters have clearly developed since their first release—The Moon Rang… feels more confident, deep and assertive. Where their debut was a sweetly soporific lullaby, their sophomore offering is more akin to being gently awoken at the beginning of a busy day. In less florid terms, The Moon Rang Like A Bell is more varied than its predecessor: having brought a completely unique style onto the scene the band now seem confident enough with it to branch it out in new directions with tracks such as ‘Broken Blue’ and ‘[Animal]’.
The consistency of this release is near flawless. While their first LP could have faced criticism for having little significant difference between some tracks, this is long gone here—the pace and energy varies track by track (even fluctuating smoothly within tracks) but never breaks the underlying aesthetic of the record. Where many albums suffer from a loss of energy around the beginning of the end, The Moon Rang… simply keeps going, meandering and exploring without ever losing interest.
With The Moon Rang Like A Bell, Hundred Waters have struck second-album gold: the continuity from their debut release is clear, but there’s been far too much evolution in their sound to even consider calling it “more of the same”. Hundred Waters was a tentative exploration into uncharted territory, The Moon Rang… claims that territory as very much their own. Whether taken in context as a second record which improves upon (without ever losing sight of) the first, or as a standalone release, The Moon Rang Like A Bell is quite simply exquisite.
The Moon Rang Like A Bell is available from 27th May.