Last night, I bought a tshirt at a show. It wasn’t something I had thought about in advance. I didn’t try it on before handing over my credit card. I didn’t even hold it up against my chest to vaguely approximate size. As far as purchases go, it was about as impulsive as they come. But impulsive isn’t the right word. It was a reactive buy. Standing in the Music Hall of Williamsburg and watching one of my favorite bands play tunes with more bass, more rawness, more panache than listening to their records would ever hint that they were capable of producing engendered an overwhelming need to mark my affiliation, cement my relationship with the group in cloth. There are many reasons people buy concert tees – to remember a moment, to commemorate a favorite album, most banally, to keep warm – but this is the first time I’ve bought merchandise because I was moved.
Wearing my new tshirt around today, I wondered if anyone on the subway noticed that the album art on my Spotify matched the graphic on my chest. Along with rarely buying merch, I’d broken another of my cardinal rules; I rarely listen to an artist’s music in the immediate aftermath of seeing them perform it live. For reasons I am still trying to pin down, Hundred Waters brings out the rule breaker in me. For one, it is ultimate headphone music – rich and intricate, accompanied by the sometimes-whisper of Nicole Miglis’ breathy vocals. But equally, I somehow hadn’t had my fill even after an hour-long set and generous encore. Hundred Waters’ music is indescribably immersive, amorphously fitting.
‘Particle’ is the opener on ‘Communicating’, Hundred Waters’ third LP in five years since signing to OWSLA in 2012. As in Skrillex‘s label. Home to Dillon Francis, Marshmello, Porter Robinson. The association makes little sense based on their discography to date but ‘Communicating’ is subtle in deferring to the band’s label’s modus operandi. Electronic leanings insinuate themselves quietly on record but boom on stage, as when Miglis strutted onto it in a mirror ball suit to sing into a distorted mic last night. It’s that constant element of surprise, more than anything, that keeps me coming back for more. Just when you think ‘Particle’ is going to go as cutesy and treacly as Miglis’ vocals, the band throws in an incongruous, glitch bar or two to shake things up. When the song threatens to turn anthemic, a commitment to live keys with fallible chords keeps feet firmly planted. There aren’t many bands out there about whose work I am quite so dumbfounded, so take that as a recommendation. And if, after immersing yourself in Waters, you find yourself at a loss for words, do what feels natural: buy a tshirt.
Hundred Waters – Particle