The most damning Pitchfork ratings are somewhere between 5.0 and 6.9. As final judgment from the indie rock trendsetters, those numbers don’t render curiosity-sparking, defiant outrage or Best New Hype—just an echoing “over it.”
Pure Bathing Culture’s Moon Tides netted a 6.8 in August 2013, which pops like an emphatic “I really like what you did with the vocals on this one song but it’s a little derivative” every time a new user Googles the band.
Make no mistake, this stuff matters. But what makes Pure Bathing Culture’s 6.8 badge interesting is that the reviewer—steadfast music scribe, Ian Cohen—wrote his 800 words in a puzzled, inquisitive state: “Encounter any of its nine tracks, and ‘what year is this?’ is a question asked with genuine befuddlement, not sarcasm.
“Their entire presentation—the band name, the album title, the aquamarine cover, Sarah Versprille and Daniel Hindman relocating from Brooklyn to Portland—instantly recalls pure blogging culture.”
Then it’s a listing of spotted influences: Laurel Canyon, the “cocaine ’70s,” Cocteau Twins, Benny Mardones, “the citric scent of a Mediterranean coast,” palatial Europe, “amorphous, swooning gestures,” 4AD Records, Elizabeth Fraser, Don Henley.
Then it’s a questioning of the band’s end game. “What are their goals? Do they avoid polishing ‘Pendulum’ and ‘Scotty’ to a diamond-bright glare because they fear backlash or studio bills?”
“We like to think that it doesn’t have an effect in the long run,” says half of the group, Sarah Versprille, of the aforementioned marks on her band’s permanent record. It has mattered quite a bit in the short-term, unfortunately. Alongside Pitchfork, for example, Gorilla Vs. Bear is a minnow of a blog. Yet the blankets of praise for Moon Tides from GVB’s chief technician, Chris Cantalini, have manifested as tangible net gains according to Versprille.
“It has definitely had an effect,” Versprille says, “People come to the merch stand all the time and say, ‘Oh, hey, I saw you on GVB.”
My “Pitchfork is basically ESPN in terms of inventing, curating and squashing a story cycle” rant gets a pin in it until the next time I get five minutes of uninterrupted speaking at a bar with my startup-laboring, bearded buddy, Harrison. About those Pure Bathing influences.
Versprille talks about jazz, roots, Motown, pop music from the ‘60s, and “any pop really.” There’s the operative word—“pop.” Moon Tides is a sort of sonic origami—fragile pieces of understated guitars, metronome pulses, soft backing “oohs,” mellow synths and countryside driving bass lines—arranged into a compressed pop filter for the benefit of three-minute Snickers Bar breakroom gems.
There are also heavy but vague themes about the universe, “the idea that the moon can affect you in a profound way,” and “transformation through self-reflection.” Moon Tides is also brought to you by the state of Oregon.
After close to a decade in New York City of working on other people’s projects, the pair moved abruptly to the Pacific Northwest (“It felt like we were making an impulsive decision,” Versprille says) and dove into Portland, Ore. “Being a band there is really easy,” Versprille says about the scene and the change of topographical home turf.
“I grew up on the East Coast and so did Dan,” Versprille says, “[Oregon] opened up all of this time and space.”
The result is Tumblr-slick music that plays nice with the scanned Polaroid urbanist crowd, but because it takes us camping. “Temples of the Moon” speaks to actualizing love in the night and then basks in its whims with lyrics like “slivers to a sphere, whisper in my wear underwater.”
And because the melodic sensibilities thrive with brevity, Pure Bathing Culture has the buzz to make a dent in the culture soon. It’ll start with South By Southwest in March, extensive touring and recording, and according to Versprille, a new record that should crystallize by 2015.
“We’re super aware of that,” Versprille says about the upright dominoes stacked across the year. This is a season of tests and opening doors for the nascent band. But Pure Bathing Culture is an easy horse to wage on.
Pure Bathing Culture performs Monday, Jan. 27, at Red 7. Watch their video for “Dream the Dare” below.