Hundred Waters place a flower in your Skrillex hair

The new ethereal sounds of Hundred Waters come from a more transient life, as the band realizes what it's truly like to be a full-time touring act.

For singer Nicole Miglis this means learning to live with being the centre of attention onstage, all eyes on her as she bares her soul to the crowd.

“I’ve learned to enjoy it more, I’ve gotten out of my shell a bit,” she says. “I’m still wrapping my head around what it means to perform music that I wrote.”

It's her voice that's the star here, either bathed in the band's production work or as the lone light in a digital vaccum. On their new LP The Moon Rang Like a Bell we're left clinging to every word.

“I’m a pretty shy person, so it’s not instinctive for me to get on a stage and do something, even though I love music and play it all the time and couldn’t do anything else,” she says.

“It can be so personal, you have to open up yourself so much, and I think there’s a human nature to close off sometimes, to not be too vulnerable.”

That vulnerability is tangible as Miglis delivers her lines in haunting syncopation, as the band rises and erodes around her. On The Moon Rang Like a Bell, every sequenced moment is scrutinized — lingering for no longer than it absolutely has to.

“They’re from a very emotional and personal place. I don’t think we could write them otherwise. That’s why we’re all drawn to it,” she says.

“It has to be fuelled by something real that’s happened in our lives or my life. Maybe that’s why hearing comparisons is so frustrating. You’re not thinking about all these people that the music is compared to, you’re thinking about what happened to you that made you write that song.”

And it's true that comparing Hundred Waters to another band is not so simple, with sounds ranging from (sorry Nicole) Aphex Twin to Joni Mitchell.

But the forest-nymph feel of their 2012 self-titled LP has grown into something different entirely, only sharing its flowing, layered structure — and Miglis' ghost-like vocal performance — with The Moon Rang Like a Bell. The flute often appearing on Hundred Waters, and really any acoustic instruments at all, are gone.

It's a product of the way they did their writing this time.

“Most of this music started in computers because that’s kind of the only instrument we had at the time,” says Miglis. “You’re constantly listening to it in different situations and filtering things out, so that’s maybe why it came out a bit more minimal.”

Their previous material, when singer / keyboardist Samantha Moss was still in the lineup, was recorded in their home / studio in Gainesville.

Instead of the creative incubation they were used to, they wrote The Moon Rang Like a Bell in short spurts on the road, now based in L.A. and with someone booking the shows for them.

“We were listening to this music all the time,” says Miglis. “If you’re writing in a van wearing headphones it can be very solitary. You have to try it out in different situations before you’ve finished it.”

And with access to all kinds of shiny new mics and studio space thanks to their record deal the with Skrillex-owned OWSLA label, the full potential of Miglis' voice is heard on this album — rich, warm and higher in the mix.

The result is pristine but not precious. The production is enough to make the OWSLA EDM crowd (that they've toured the continent with) salivate, while still feeling human at its core. It places some flowers in that Skrillex hair.

But despite the new studio access and label support, they're still doing the recording themselves. Bandmember Trayer Tryon mixed and produced the new LP.

Now on the second week of touring the new record, crowned with "Best New Music" from the three-pronged tastemakers and getting a rave review from the New York Times, more people are listening than ever before. Nicole says it's a humbling experience, and what's most important is doing the songs justice live by revisiting the moments that inspired her to write them.

“I think the goal in performance for me is staying in the moment as much as you can, which is kind of hard to talk about, it’s kind of like a blackout in a way,” she says.

“You’re focused completely on what you’re doing. It's all kind of meditative [...] Locking eyes with somebody in that moment and performing to them. Trying to stay true to what you’re singing about and to stay honest about it, to give as much of yourself as you can in that moment.”

Hundred Waters play Il Motore July 8 with Majical Cloudz. Stream The Moon Rang Like a Bell on Soundcloud.

Not Musical Tourism

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Suuns make the kind of music that will burrow inside your head, nesting in your subconscious only to emerge when you least expect it.

They toe the line between drone and dance, often falling into one or the other. Their dark, at times alienating, synthy, slippery sound comes more from a feeling than a theme, one that drummer Liam O’Neill worried they wouldn’t be able to recreate for their sophomore effort.

As a band, they had more at stake in their new Images du Futur LP. And far more people were listening, too.

“At first I thought we wouldn’t be able to do it again, or that it would sound completely different,” says O’Neill. “But it seems the more we work together the more we sound like us.

“We’re a live band, so the development of this record is just about to start.”

O’Neill is at work at a café in the McGill ghetto during our interview, as the band prepares for the first leg of theirImages du Futur tour—a few dates in small Quebec cities before showcase spots at the South by Southwest and Canadian Music Week music festivals.

The album will have been out for a month before the Montreal release show at Sala Rossa.

But that gap is good for the band, allowing for the industry stuff to be done first so they can begin to flesh out the murky ideas of Images du Futur before starting their own tour across North America and Europe.

“They’re necessary chores; you get on and nobody really gives a shit, but you’ve got to do it,” he says of the showcase gigs. “But it’s also good to hone your skills as a performer under pressure, and I think our band thrives on that.”

Images du Futur

The follow-up to 2010’s Zeroes QC has been mastered since last November and was recorded this past summer at Breakglass Studios in Villeray, also the birthplace of the debut LP.

But while the environment was the same, their approach to the new record was anything but. Zeroes QC was something of a dumping ground for songs they’d played live for three years; Images du Futur was carefully curated—and its tracks written in a much smaller timeframe.

They were also more accustomed to the style of producer Jayce Lasek of The Besnard Lakes, who knew what sound the band was going for this time around.

“It’s hard to tell what the aesthetic trajectory is when you’re just recording drums and bass,” says O’Neill. “We’re just a lot more mature. Now we know what’s worthwhile to pursue, what will lead us down the rabbit hole.”

That trip becomes all the more apparent on the second half of the record, where the club haunt of “Bambi” and the syncopated minimalism of “Edie’s Dream” begin to take hold, pulling you into the kind of fully-formed songs that barely existed on their debut LP. It’s a product of all four members gelling together earlier on in the songwriting process, although the “nucleus” of the song usually comes from singer/guitarist Ben Shemie.

Doing it Live

“I like the sound of an electronic base, with loose percussion around it. For me it saves its direction from becoming Ableton music,” says O’Neill of his drum style, referring to the popular music production computer program. “I like that loose feeling you inevitably get with the human element.”

It’s that human element which sets Suuns apart from their more electronic contemporaries. Three of the four bandmates studied jazz at McGill, something that O’Neill says has allowed him to execute whatever pops into his head.

“We were all trained as performers first, playing acoustic instruments,” he says. “These days there are a lot of bands that weren’t musicians when they were young, that grew up reading magazines or music blogs and then decided they wanted to play music.”

The strongest parts of Images du Futur are the tracks that the band allowed to rise from primordial jams—tracks like “Sunspot,” where the bass line would feel at home under today’s Radiohead, or “Edie’s Dream,” which emerged as-is from months of improvising during sound checks.

“As soon as I started playing it on the drum kit, which is growing to be a less and less fashionable sound these days, the song was much more natural feeling; it gave our ideas room to grow,” says O’Neill.

They keep the electronic aesthetic but still execute nearly everything live—a testament to their training as performers.

“There’s a certain alchemy that happens after you play a song for that long. You start communicating better, a pheromonal connection,” he says. “They become more gamey, more fragrant somehow.”

Their latest work is an exercise of restraint—nowhere on Images du Futur will you find the explosive moments like in the Zeroes QC standout track “Armed for Peace.”

The new record ebbs and flows, slipping into climactic moments at a much more gradual pace.

“A lot of people say our first record was all over the place, which in some ways I agree with,” he says. “But also that’s why I love this band, I feel like we can do anything and still be us. We try and bring our presence towards whatever we’re working on.”

And so far that ethos seems to hold true, even when collaborating with performers such as Arabic Psych artist Radwan Moumneh, who plays under the name Jerusalem in My Heart.

“We tracked a record with him in January, and it doesn’t feel to me like musical tourism or some strange academic experiment. It still sounds like our band in that scenario,” said O’Neill.

Originally published by The Link Newspaper.