Florida/California-rooted experimental pop collective Hundred Waters introduced the world to their impressive pastiche of electronic and organic sounds with their self-titled 2012 debut. Wild samples, cold beats, and effervescent walls of vocals drew comparisons to everyone from Björk to Dirty Projectors, though no comparisons were bold enough to really pin down the band's frenetic sound. In the two years that followed, Hundred Waters found themselves performing live a great deal more than in their beginnings, and approached the writing/recording process for sophomore album The Moon Rang Like a Bell with live performance in mind, hoping to dutifully replicate the sounds of the album in a live setting. Rather than turning in a stripped-down skeleton of their previous sound, the album is brimming with sound, clearer and more direct rather than particularly more spare or even organized all that differently than before. Still crouching in a coy posture at the forefront of all the songs are frontwoman Nicole Miglis' vocals, contorting into different breathy forms depending on the song. For instance, the incredibly constructed "Out Alee" finds her vocals weaving between bubbly ethereal samples and rolling basslines, sounding either like a female James Blake or a distant cousin of Bat for Lashes' Natasha Khan, depending on the movement. Throughout the album there are understated moments of mismatched sonics that somehow mesh perfectly. Ambulance and police sirens are buried in the mix of the dark, Christmas-like piano-and-bells dirge "Murmurs," while wobbly ancient tape sounds, dark jittery beats, and songs built on micro-samples of music boxes and glacial bell sounds bring to mind everyone from Sigur Rós to Aphex Twin to Burial without really sounding anything like any of these possible reference points. All of Hundred Waters' various unlikely combinations of sound come to a head on the jumpy beat and spinning wheel of mishmashed electronics of "[Animal]." The song teeters fearlessly between moments of cold, reserved balladry and nervous, sample-happy programming more in line with avant dance experiments by Laurie Anderson or Arthur Russell than any of the band's indie contemporaries. The album is endlessly engaging, offering a look inside the band's collective head as a carefree playground of sounds where dour string sections melt into watery piano loops, driving electronic drum samples, and spirals of angelic vocals without missing a beat. Though best taken as a whole spectrum of sonic possibilities, every song offers a different set of highlights, from the wide-eyed pop of "Xtalk" to the dark looming tension of "Cavity."
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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas