Album Review

Harbored Mantras

Harbored Mantras

by Water Borders


Tri-Angle Records
8 / 10
7th October 2011

Reviewed by Martyn Pepperell


On a surface level, Harbored Mantras conjures up images of garishly dressed men and women with quiffs, heavy face makeup, and even heavier vocal reverb. Wandering amidst geographically indeterminate, crumbling cityscapes, these dramatic characters float through the empty streets, gently serenading the ruins. Further to the edges, the ghosts of UK Garage, 2-step, Detroit Techno and Chicago House murmur softly; rave as heard through the warehouse walls so to speak.

Following a repeated, and focused listening courtship, Harbored Mantras, San Francisco electronic duo Water Borders' (Amitai Heller and Loric Sih) full-length album debut, reveals a deeper, far more occult, sub-cultural, and culturally exotic set of sensibilities. Building on the reductionist new wave meets hauntological rave template suggested earlier, inclusions like 'Feasting On Mongeese', 'Tred On Them' and 'What Wiwant', factor ritualistic tribal rhythms into the mix (gamelan on 'Tred On Them'). Elsewhere, numbers such as 'Bad Ethos' and 'Waldenpond.com' draw on devices utilized within the more skewed sides of the post-dubstep bass diaspora, balancing this dystopian futurism with pure Gregorian chant referencing gothicalia on 'Even In The Dark'.

These features are quirks which, when examined individually, aside from perfectly justifying Harbored Mantras place within the amorphous stable of Triangle Records, also draw a direct line between Water Borders current inclinations and the occultist, musical cabalisms of Coil, Throbbing Gristle and the rest of the hedonistic post-industrial avant-garde that coalesced around Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson during the eighties in London.

While predominantly driven by the interplay between hollowed out male voice and spongy textural instrumentals (which feel equally informed by analog and digital sound culture), several of the songs enclosed in Harbored Mantra's nine song sequence also feature contributions from an unidentified female vocalist (or perhaps vocalists). Whether handling Beth Gibbons recalling lead parts (as on 'Waldenpond.com') or delivering what comes dangerously close to a toasted dancehall ragga verse on 'Feasting On Mongeese', these under the radar contributions serve to flesh out the Harboured Mantras soundworld, giving added colour, depth and detail to the proceedings.

And the realms of colour, depth and detail are really what pushes Harbored Mantras over the edge, letting the songs tumble into the special place they inhabit. Be it the pitch bent vocal stabs on 'Waldenpond.com', the perfectly pitched reverberating snares on 'Bad Ethos' or the cathedralesque sense of space apparent in the fittingly titled album closer 'Antechamber', throughout this body of work, Water Borders consistently go the extra distance.

Water Borders have previously recorded with, and gig alongside Glasser (Cameron Mesirow). They're big fans of her work, and it is pretty safe to say that those of you who enjoyed Ring, her debut album, will most likely feel a warming sense of engagement with the series of songs presented here.

In 2011, pulling together disparate genres, eras, movements and moods almost feels like a competitive sport. Water Borders handle this collision with a supple touch, refreshingly instinctual, and far from retromaniacal tendencies we see displayed on blogs across the internet on a daily basis.




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