review: Water Borders // “Harbored Mantras”

Water Borders

Harbored Mantras

The affinity between NYC/London record label Tri Angle and Water Borders is a curious one. Amitai Heller and Loric Sih of San Francisco duo Water Borders, do not employ the same rolling ambience of labelmates Balam Acab or How To Dress Well. Where as Holy Other and oOoOO (who also brandish the Tri Angle imprint) are descendents of hip hop and dub, Water Borders are born of the 80’s industrial scene, pulling from Coil, Popul Vuh and Psychic TV. Their soggy electronic debut also casts a staggering collection of worldbeats, sampled from the sound banks of the Middle East, India, Africa and Indonesia. In this way, Water Borders make a kind of infected dance. Their moon-shone throbbing, sub-percussive/percussive music is just as much for your body as it is for your ears.

It’s hard imagining Harbored Mantras taking place on stage or in a room. The Water Borders’ thick atmosphere is that of the damp air of a candle lit cave or an abandon church. They talk about snakes in the water, hollow bodies and night scenes. Embodying all the splendor of echo and texture, Heller and Loric’s backdrop for modern spell work is an understanding of the beauty of fragmentation and repetition. Heller’s shivering croon rides out the drown and pound of heavy toms, shakers and low digital blunted bass. His monk vox is clenched between the lilt of someone suffering and the hypnosis of someone seducing.

If you didn’t take the duo seriously you could call Water Borders heroin-hyphy, but rather they are careful forerunners of a new craft, stating that Harbored Mantras is, “a coalescence of digital and analog sounds and textures.” In the way of Throbbing Gristle, they place an emphasis on atmosphere rather than context, patiently drawing sonic circles for physical movement as well as contemplation. Listening to Harbored Mantras is seeing the moon come out in the afternoon. It’s smoking indoors. It’s holding your breath under water. It’s trying to figure out which flickering shadow is your own. Perhaps most importantly Harbored Mantras is proof of the further materialization of an innovative dark industrial music scene teeming in San Francisco. With bedfellows Soft Moon, ChasmsSsleeping DesiresS currently defibrillating things, Water Borders couldn’t have come up for air during a better time.

Charlotte Simons

Water Borders // “What Wiwant”

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