Long-running Iowa City freak pop duo Wet Hair were born from the ashes of bandmembers Shawn Reed and Ryan Garbes' former tribal experimentalist unit Rac-ooo-ooo-n, and much as that band moved constantly through various propulsive stylistic shifts, Wet Hair also emerge as a new beast on almost every subsequent release. On Spill into Atmosphere, they make enormous progress from their darker and more depraved-sounding 2011 release, In Vogue Spirit. Where that record was still holding on to Wet Hair's roots in German electronics and the pop song as seen through Suicide's fractured lens, Spill into Atmosphere chases some of the demons out of the house and delivers a sound that somehow manages to be both more interesting and more accessible at once. The album opens with the rolling bass and kaleidoscopic keyboards of "Grey Palisades," an update of the kind of twisted inward-looking synth pop that made Power, Corruption & Lies one of New Order's best albums. The influence of New Order and other post-Factory Records upstarts comes in and out of focus throughout the album. The chorus-heavy bass guitar and reverbed drum machine rattle of "Blank Sunday" tap into the rudimentary electro-pop experimentalism of Joy Division's last studio recordings and "Camouflage" mirrors the happy-sad simplicity of the Cure's late-'80s singles. The lengthy drone of "Jane You Don't Decide" hits the same immaculate heights of bliss that Spacemen 3's minimal spiritual rock sometimes achieved, augmenting swirls of psychedelic guitar with layers and layers of squeaky synthesizer washes. "Strange Romance" also gives a droning take on rock & roll, with Reed's repetitive deadpan vocals becoming another texture of the song's vast and watery swamplands. New bandmember Justin Thye replaces Matt Fenner from the previous album, and completes both the most solid lineup of Wet Hair and their most solid set of songs. With some of the basement haze and uneasiness giving way, Spill into Atmosphere feels surprisingly clear-headed, refining the psychic noise that came before it into something more open and communicative.
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas