Moon Tides is the debut LP from hotly tipped Portland-via-Brooklyn synth-pop duo Pure Bathing Culture. After last year's eponymous EP received swelling rounds of applause, the anticipation mounted for a meatier release; something which showed the breadth of their talent rather than a brief glimpse into their sugar-coated world. There are frequent comparisons to Fleetwood Mac, but Sarah Versprille and Daniel Hindman (who have worked with Foxygen and Vetiver) don't really seem to fit that mould; there's melodic folk-pop guitars and 80s psycho synth melding together beneath the lustre of Versprille's frosty, Liz Fraser-esque vocals.
Lead single 'Pendulum' reels of mystical imagery: "In your mind's eye you see pentacles/ fortune tellers say it's your time in the blue wood." Fractal psych-pop guitars mirror this atmosphere. The chorus is rousing; enormous surges of furry warmth and blissful noise submerge your consciousness, forcing you to tread water in a sea of rippling reverb and cyclic six-stringers. 'Temples Of The Moon' rekindle memories of Austra - Versprilles quaky, quivering agony-fuelled murmurs evoke thoughts of Katie Stelmanis. The vast, sprawling electro-pop that's summoned by Hindman doesn't do much to dissuade those notions. It's worth noting that comparisons to Austra are never a bad thing.
The pair revel in neo-hippy frames of mind, recounting their inspirations: "Concepts of self-actualisation, mysticism, new-age symbolism and pretty much anything that has to do with humans making sense of why we're all here are all deep, deep muses for us... we are deeply inspired by the relationship between the moon and the tides. Particularly in the sense that the tides and the ocean are comprised of water and the element water is often associated with human emotion." Presumably this was said surrounded by billowing incense smoke-rings and dreamcatchers. It may sounds a bit, well, pretentious, on the outset, but after a few tracks something will click and the way they describe their music makes much more sense. It may have an airy façade, but there's deep intellectualisms, soul-searching and philosophical ponderings behind it all - they're far wiser and more thought-provoking than they initially let on. Though the lyrics can be a tad undecipherable due to the swirling drifts of fuzzy reverb, the fragments gleaned convey much meaning.
Ignore the fact that in every few bars of 'Only Lonely Lovers' there's a weird, niggling kinship with 'Hey Porsche' by Nelly. This is a golden burst of folktronica. Saccharin Disney-style choruses explode with optimism, despite the seemingly morose subject matter, with a jaunty sing-a-longs encouraged. 'Evergreener' has Eastern-style synths (they're all zithery) and pastoral acoustic guitar noises. Versprille's voice is flippant, sometimes warbling in one direction, sometimes tumbling down the rabbit hole towards soprano-land - she never lets you sit tight or content in one position for long.
Pure Bathing Culture's debut record is bold. It's overgrown and buried under layers upon layers of vine-like synths, sticky effects and whirring guitars, but a fantastical world still seeps through the sonic mesh, inciting thaumaturgic mirages of swollen rainforests soaked in storm juice and delicate feyness. It's a record rife with 80s pop ghosts, the faint imprint of new wave etched onto their style. There are scores of beautiful tangents and engrossing digressions within the album, with Hindman and Versprille weaving ribbons of sound with captivating lyrics. Moon Tides launches a clandestine assault on you, slowly grabbing you by the ankles and dragging you into the world of Pure Bathing Culture.