Fans of Pure Bathing Culture’s 2013 record, “Moon Tides,” will find “Pray For Rain” a vast departure from the former’s sounds of vaguely perceived dreams washing out into the ether. While vocalist Sarah Versprille still has a voice which could be mistaken for The Cocteau Twins’ Elizabeth Fraser (sans the unintelligible lyrics of that band’s ’80s period), gone is the targeted production style that defined the band as purveyors of music in the ethereal, “dream pop” style.
Producer John Congleton (St. Vincent) steered the band towards a more “stripped down” guitar and keyboard sound. The result is a whimsical. open-feel-styled pop recording that would be perfectly fitting for a session of day sailing aboard a Massachusetts-based yacht. There is a fresh sense of urgency in the guitar/bass parts of Daniel Hindman which compliment the keyboard bleeps that retain a pop sound and do not drift over into electronica. The playful synth sounds of Orchestral Manouevres in the Dark come to mind, though the record is clearly based in the two- thousand=tens.
“Pray For Rain” is slated for a September 1st release. The connotations of that early fall month are not in sync with the vibe of the record. This is a recording of songs that make you feel the summer air. Opening track “The Tower” breezes along, led by a laid back guitar sound. The call and response of a quirky keyboard in the latter half creates an atmosphere of hazy summer Saturdays of youth, with no obligations.
Subsequent songs including “The Singer,” “Darling Save Us” and “She Shakes” incorporate all the best pop sensibilities of ’80s and ’90s acts such as Book of Love, The Sundays and Belly, (et al.) without sounding dated. The mixture of “snaky” but precise, guitars chime along with the interesting use of electronics. Backed by the rhythm section of Brian Wright and Zach Tillman (brother of Josh Tillman- a.k.a. Father John Misty), the result is a lo-fi recording that belies the typical monotone, understated presentation one thinks of when that term is used. Rather, it’s a sound that brings to mind wide open spaces with semi-minimalist instrumentation and vocals that reflect buoyancy on an endless sea.
It should be noted that despite the influences of previous decades, “Pray for Rain” is not running on feelings of nostalgia. The strategized approach to production by Congleton kept the band devoid of guitar layering and other studio trickery. The result is a more real, natural sounding record than Pure Bathing Culture’s previous work. In addition, the record’s take on older sound motifs becomes up-to-date by expressing those sounds in a new way.
Pure Bathing Culture have made a record that inspires feelings of wandering summer adventures, with no particular destination. Strangely, it could very well be as accepted in a country club as much as an indie rock club. The recording is a product of a band that were not afraid to take chances in delving into unfamiliar musical territory and recording protocols. This is certainly no sophomore slump.
Suggested Tracks: The Singer, She Shakes
Pure Bathing Culture- Pray For Rain/2015 Partisan/Memphis Industries