[sic] Magazine

Water Borders – Drippings

If my job here were easy … well, I guess for a start I wouldn’t get away with referring to it as a job, and, secondly, it would moot the entire purpose of my being here. Still, every now and then I get a slight case of the if-onlys and wish I could just say something like, “this is rock music, and you’ll probably like it”. And everyone would respond: “ah yes, I know exactly what you mean. Thanks for explaining”.

Back in reality, or the slightly skewed version of it such as Water Borders have created, this isn’t rock music. And, even in their version, I don’t get to take the easy way out and simply say it hails from the new school of witch house – nevermind that I’m not convinced witch house is actually new. The fact remains that within the now-firmly established scene is myriad recognisable devices, various incarnations of such, and numerous ghostly visages spooking about. However, to label Water Borders as simply witch house would be lazy. Yet, make no mistake, Drippings contains a number of elements as claimed and possibly defined by the fold.

It also leaves quite a number of them out. Much to my relief, the axe has fallen on the most common and therefore quickly cliched variety. New/dark-wave, ethereal synths, plus molasses-slow ambience and vocals are here, but they’re kept rather low key, surfacing only in an occasionally stilted manner. Though, as you might expect given the band and album name, a discernible watery aesthetic is present throughout.

There’s a few moments where that translates to a subtle golden shimmer of sunlight reflecting on a rippling surface, such as with the light use of acoustic (sounding) instruments, or the dulcet melody that appears in the opening section of side A’s ‘Ararat’ – it sounds like it was plucked from the strings of a yangqin, which in turn adds a light, delicate tone to counter some of the murkier waters tread by Drippings. The last few minutes of ‘Ararat’ fade into ethereal drone, which also contains the faint sound of birds calling from the trees while still retaining an overall hazy, almost ominous vibe.

Lighter moments more often give way to the prevalent sense that we’re wading in waist-deep water, heavy-limbed and picking our way through tangled mangroves on the way to something quite ceremonious. Though the B-side actually contains two tracks, ‘Archipelago’ and ‘The Man With Fish In His Hands’, the music itself melds together for an extended piece that shifts between piercing, siren-like drone, a more vocal-focused section with distinct gothic overtones, and on to a tribal chant driven by a subdued beat. The whole lot finally finishes once more with a drone section, this time with slightly heavier industrial influences.

One, perhaps very minor thing that I’d like to give kudos for, is that in favour of the very 90s-sounding percussive use of “tinned claps” as I so often hear in songs from the witch house realm, Water Borders have opted for a realistic-sounding version (if not real). They use it sparingly and – for this reviewer – more effectively, adding to the organic feel of the band’s predominantly electronic sounds.

In fact, by virtue of lacking the more common devices prone to the genre, and by having a particular point to make and journey to take the listener on, Water Borders have created something that, for once, doesn’t remind me of the – frankly – awful “songs” I used to churn out way back when I had a Playstation 2 and the game Music 2000 with its endless, pre-made loops that I’d lump together and experiment with by slowing them down to 70 BPM.

The moral of the story is: I couldn’t make music. Water Borders can, and I like it.

~Drippings is out late February 2011 on a cassette run of 100 only on Skrot Up .~