Water and Man release new LP
As far as pop music is concerned, 2018 has brought with it a surprisingly strong showing for postmodern, almost psychedelic-tinged bands. Out of the plethora of talent within this new movement that I myself have had the pleasure of discovering this year, no act stands out more to me than Water and Man, whose new record Phantasie is in essence the nucleus of this exciting trend in music. Phantasie dabbles in texture-laden surrealism in the most selfless way possible, and when its concept is coupled with Water and Man’s trademark work ethic, the result is one of the best records that 2018 has had to offer.
For as spacey and psych-rock as Phantasie is, it doesn’t ever step into overindulgent territory or come off as a druggy, shapeless concept piece. Everything here seems very deliberate, from the tidal wave of gorgeous synthesized feedback that opens up the title track to the gentle churn of “Nias,” which is something straight out of a My Bloody Valentine fantasy that could never have been realized during that band’s he
yday. The arrangement of Phantasie is unparalleled in its progressiveness, and were Water and Man interested, I would imagine they could create an excellent major motion picture soundtrack.
Phantasie plays out in a grandiose fashion, and each track is stylized to create a dreamlike listening environment for the audience to become completely hypnotized in. From the very beginning of this record, we’re drawn into its stunningly bright light and never allowed to break away from its sensuous glare. Water and Man have such chemistry as a band that every song feels like a sequel to the one that came before it, and the pace never slows down for a moment. The vocals wrap around us like an insulated blanket in the midst of a snowstorm of colorful instrumental tones, creating an irresistibly chaotic harmony.
There are a lot of post-punk influences highlighted in Phantasie that weren’t previously on display in Water and Man’s previous work, and the creative evolution is a welcomed one. The robotic synthesizers and depressing lyrics of the first wave of post-punk have been replaced with an appreciation for jazz theory and 60’s pop melodies, an intriguing spin to put on a genre of music created out of special resentment for those very styles. Water and Man are showing us that they’re not afraid to try anything when it comes to recording an album, even if it means experimenting with contradictions just to see what they could yield.
When I listen to a song like “Backwash,” my favorite track from Phantasie, a couple of things are impossible to ignore. One, this song, and really all of these songs, would never have worked on anyone else’s record. Water and Man take these compositions and bring them to life before our very eyes, and the process is nothing less than ethereal to bear witness to. The second is that this band is on the cusp of something really big and important to the future of music. Whether they intended to or not, they’re setting some big trends and becoming one of the most talked about bands in the latter half of the 2010’s.