Wet Hair Glass Fountain

[Night People/Not Not Fun; 2009]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: noise, drone, experimental
Others: Suicide, Pocahaunted, Teeth Mountain

As dubious as the achievement might appear to be, Wet Hair have made what might be the most comely drone album of recent memory. Indeed, their new album, Glass Fountain, is about as sensual as junkie sex. Its narcotic mood makes for easy listening, but like many drug-induced experiences, its charms seem somewhat slighter in hindsight.

Slightness, however, is what makes Glass Fountain so intoxicating. All too often, drone bands rely too much on the lower end, using the depth of the pitch to unsettle, to kick punishment-gluttonous listeners in their guts. Wet Hair, continuing the Suicide-Doors-Of-Perception aesthetic they began with Dream, caress, rather than cudgel, with their repetitions.

The strange, quasi-religious, cultic feeling of the album is deeply and immediately felt. Glass Fountain could just as appropriately serve as the soundtrack to a Manson Family orgy as it could the setting for a Masonic ceremony. Shaun Reed’s depraved and surly vocals effectively defile the sanctity of the gorgeous keyboard work. Employed sparingly, Reed’s voice tethers Wet Hair’s music, keeping it from becoming too wispy to form any feelings about. Though the effect is frequently goofy, it’s hard to fathom that a noise band called Wet Hair is too concerned with preserving any false sense of solemnity.

It’s that dichotomy, between the hammy vocals and the delicate instrumentation, that makes Glass Fountain as surprisingly enjoyable as it is. Whenever the shimmering drone starts to sag, Reed adds a sinister croon and the compositions regain their balance. “Mesmerized,” the album’s opening track, veers between stuttering, distorted jags of noise and a warm, inviting organ line. As the most balanced of Glass Fountain’s five songs, it casts a shadow that the other four songs can’t quite escape.

Despite the album’s many charms, Glass Fountain sometimes feels like less than the sum of its parts. Taken individually, the songs are of near-equal quality. Sometimes, though, the flow of the record, its sequencing, makes individual songs feel redundant. “Crucifix In The Waves” — which suffers from being sandwiched between two stronger tracks — comes across as a long, loping intro to “When The Right Time Comes.” The juxtaposition of these two songs highlights the record’s strengths and weaknesses. “Crucifix” begins prettily enough, but fails to build into anything greater than as what it began. “When The Right Time Comes” almost repeats that mistake, blooming slowly, spinning its wheels prettily to the beat of Ryan Garbes’ jazzy processional drumming. These songs are minimal enough that at times their slow burn burns just a mite too slowly.

These misgivings are, much like the album itself, slight. “Cold City,” Glass Fountain’s penultimate track, picks up where “Mesmerized” left off, with a more structured (and compelling) variation of their home-fried noise. And speaking of noise, the album closes with a bracing blast of it on “Stepping Razor (to Heaven’s Door).” It’s a satisfying bit of catharsis on an album that could use a little bit more.

With Glass Fountain, Wet Hair has released the same sort of dreamy, silly gobbledygook that they’ve been making for a few years now. That they never seem to take themselves too seriously helps to compensate for their shortcomings. And despite the redundancy and overall slightness, Glass Mountain is both lush enough to entice and rowdy enough to satisfy experimental cravings.

Most Read