Water Borders: Harbored Mantras
Tri Angle Records

Harbored Mantras is the seriously tripped-out debut full-length from electronic alchemists Amitai Heller and Loric Sih, a San Francisco duo who operate under the Water Borders name. The group's sound situates itself somewhere between Coil and The Knife with a smattering of Here Come the Warm Jets thrown in for extra seasoning, and a typical album track threads ghoulish vocals into a dense haze of tribal dubstep-rooted beats, throbbing bass tones, and hallucinatory swirls of indeterminate origin. The album's disquieting mood is immediately set when “Tread On Them” trots out a diseased marriage of skewed gamelan and woozy tribal techno, with all of it overlaid by ultra-dramatic Eno-like vocals. A smidgen of Burial seeps into “What Wiwant” in the form of the scissors-like percussive effect that gets it going, though the sound is quickly smothered by a bass-heavy pulse and angst-ridden vocal howl. Adding to the song's disquieting brew are exotic percussion and an overall suffocating atmosphere.

As stated, Water Borders' viral mantras at times call to mind the queasy narcotic-laced ambiance one associates with Coil but more often sounds like a close cousin to The Knife, though Harbored Mantras takes The Knife's nightmarish tendencies to an even more disturbed extreme. In fact, it wouldn't be stretching it too far to imagine the gothic ghoulishness of “Feasting On Mongeese” being mistaken in a blindfold test for the work of the Swedish outfit, and the female vocal shriek streaming alongside the bass-thudding dub pulse in “Bad Ethos” can't help but suggest the group's Karin Dreijer Andersson (aka Fever Ray). That's nothing to get too worked up about—every artist is influenced by somebody—and, furthermore, it wouldn't surprise me to discover Water Borders sounding more like itself and no one else by the time its sophomore album arrives. For now, the psychedelic pill that is Harbored Mantras offers its own fair share of rewards.

November 2011