Writer: Sam Kayuha, Executive Editor.
Seeing Water Witches live is like falling into a vortex of slicing guitar and pounding rhythm. It is such a surreal, psychedelic, immersive experience that it is difficult to imagine what the band would do in a studio. But on “Halcyon,” the second album by the Athens-based trio, the rawness of the band’s live show is captured on record.
“We recorded it ourselves, so we were able to take our time with it,” said singer and guitarist Ethan Bartman. For three months the band toiled in its “Cosmic Cove” rehearsal space, writing, recording and mixing alongside collaborators like Andrew Lampela of WEEDGHOST. The album was finished in January of this year, and after a six-month wait for vinyl-pressing, was released in July.
“Halcyon” is spacey, sometimes incomprehensible, but just as often is startlingly in place. The mix of perfectly compact songwriting and willingness to delve completely into the subconscious makes for a pleasantly jarring experience. It is pop music through the looking glass, an album of fantastic oddity.
There is structure to the songs, a sense of what is coming next, but no idea of what might be coming with it. For a while, “Cut” is formulaic, before it segways into a lengthy guitar solo then madcap dash to the last note. It is emblematic of an album characterized by melodic instincts, spiced with the unpredictability that comes with relying on a tarot card deck for beating writer’s block.
“We take inspiration from Brian Eno’s ‘oblique strategies.’ We pull a card and if it's card 19, we play the riff 19 times,” Bartman said. “We always use a tarot deck on tour to sort of feel our intentions.”
The four-chord stomp of “9lives” is countered by the disconcerting, jangling piano; the snappy melody by worries of wasted time. There’s the ethereal “Soul BDSM,” the Pink Floyd in a garage vibes of the title track and the night/day change of “Goddess” into “Devil.” Not a song is wasted--each of the 10 tracks are worth the time.
“Halcyon” can be found on streaming services and Bandcamp, where is it available for digital and physical purchase. Catch the band live at Woodlands Tavern on Sep. 17, and on its upcoming tour with Bummers.