Raccoo-oo-oon were alive but for a short time, and their legend lives on through the Night People label and Wet Hair, a group tag-teamed by dragonmasters Ryan Garbes and Shawn Reed. Just don’t expect the vibe of any of their old projects, as this fuzzy mane is an entity all its own and (Where does the time go?) has been around a half-decade or so at this point, longer than the band many of us identify them with.
Far from attempting in any way to extend or renew the life of Raccoo-oo-oon, Wet Hair set out to strike a balance between streaking synths, disaffected vocals, busy bass formations (upon which the entire record depends for structure), and minimalist, tinker-toy drum-machine foundations. Rather than further muddling the legacy of Joy Division circa Blank Dogs or Mattress, however, Wet Hair, at least via new album Spill Into Atmosphere, play things relatively straight. The mix is crystal-clear, and despite the presence of some played-down fuzz guitar, the trio of Garbes, Reed, and recent addition Justin Tye aren’t really ROCKIN’ as much as they are creating with a sharp eye for detail and less-is-more ethos. That and an uneasy, perhaps even queasy, feeling.
Does the strategy work for them? I’ve had my doubts before, and while Spill offers a quality listen, I continue to be more of a well-wisher than an ardent fan, partly because the melodies aren’t addictive enough, and partly because there isn’t enough excitement baked into its center. Most of the evidence I possess of Garbes’ and Reed’s output points to more of an explosive presence. They break out a bit during “Jane You Don’t Decide,” and that’s what I would have gone down on a lawman to hear more of: a blurry, beautiful drift that sounds more like an expedition than a mere song. The power of the track blows you away, and the synths form smoke trails in your ears. It chugs for more than eight minutes and feels every bit the true vision of its creators.
That’s what these boys have always been capable of, and that’s what I think they might be working toward.