It’s been quite a year already for Hundred Waters. With just two of their songs the trio have made us sit up and marvel at their emergence from their shadowed past; both Particle and Blanket Me are stunning exercises of electronic-pop, showcasing the light and shade of emotion that they excel at on Communicating.
“Communicating”. That’s quite a big statement from the off, given so many in this industry spend their time thinking up the best ways of doing exactly that. Yet somehow Hundred Waters take all those known cues – the house piano on Wave To Anchor, for example – and combine their words and sound into something that feels dazzling and brand new, communicating more to us in just one line, one melody, or one progression the way most can’t manage across a career. It’s only track two, but by the time Wave To Anchor finishes the feeling is akin to that of being razed and given life again, a gut-punch followed by a kaleidoscopic new beginning.
There’s no doubt this is a special album, and it does come back to its centrepiece Blanket Me. It’s a vulnerable, soaring song that demands you stop and listen, with Nicole Miglis holding our gaze with a cracked voice that doesn’t even need the backing around it (“You’re my blanket, you’re my skin/ You’re everything within/ You’re my guardian, I’m your sail/ A boat in your harbour/ Gone under, capsized and sinking”). She creates a similar effect on the deceptively simple piano-and-string structure of Parade, another musical sleight -of-hand that disguises its “who do you think you are?” refrain around a gorgeous arrangement.
Ultimately, what Hundred Waters have created is one of the most exhilarating experiences of the year. We struggle to keep up with the turns of At Home And In My Head, which grabs a familiar palette and swirls into an unheard freshness; it’s immediately balanced with the cloistered chorus of Firelight, a lost hymn that imparts the complexities of human feeling. Like the sleeve implies, there’s stark black-and-white drama here on the surface, but the more these songs stay in our company the more they inspire a reassessment of what we know.
By the time Better rolls around, Miglis is asking “did I change you?”. It’s hard not to shout back a giant motherfucking yes, to be honest. Not only does this record feel like a renewal of our own interest in a flagging genre, it feels like a baptism of emotional honesty, a forced reflection, and Communicating as communion as we leave saturated with more feeling than we know what to do with. If that’s not a mark of genius in 2017, we don’t know what else possibly could be.