REVIEW: Underwater - "This is Not a Film"

By Rat Bastard

Chain Border

UnderwaterElectronic pop would not be an inaccurate description of the Atlanta-based band Underwater. Their second full-length offering, This is Not a Film, is packed with nicely programmed electronic soundscapes, shaped by melodic hooks galore, and driven by the beautiful voice of Melissa Mileski.

However, it would be unfair to consign this album purely to the (somewhat libelous) categorization of 'pop,' electronic or not. This music is simply far too well-crafted to sit comfortably alongside schlock. Underwater seem to borrow from a variety of influences, most noticeably trip-hop and, to a lesser degree, ethereal/shoegazer rock, but they manage to ingest, mutate and assimilate (apologies for the impromptu industrial lyrics) them into a concoction that is all their own.

One additional qualifier I would have to add to my description of This is Not a Film is paradoxical. Mileski's voice flows gently against the ear, with seemingly minimal effort on her part, quite like a cool breeze, and yet still retains a deep underlying strength and soulfulness. This soulful strength becomes a bit more blatant at certain points however, particularly during Melc, and the album's opener 1000 Light Years from Home. However, my point is that, even during the deepest moments of melancholy and pain (and there are quite a few exhibits of such emotional content), there is still no loss of this 'gentle' touch which permeates the entire album.

Likewise the rhythms and melodies of Jeremy Wilkins are not without such beautiful contradictions either. The instrumentation, composed of various electronically generated noises, synth patches, percussion and the occasional guitar (which is only sometimes easily recognizable as being such) is fairly minimal and bleak, or so it seems at first glance. Closer scrutiny reveals the underlying lush complexity contained within. Thus, the perfect backdrop for the vocals to play upon is provided; the music does not compete with or drown them (and Underwater, being the band that it is, would do well not to dampen the effectiveness of such a great asset). However it still manages to stand as an independent piece of well-designed sonic architecture, and demonstrates this ability quite often during the numerous interludes between more vocal sections.

I will note, however, that exclusive fans of hard trance and/or the warm and familiar throb of 'doof/doof/doof' from the dancefloor may want to steer clear of this one. There are a few moderately upbeat moments on this album, but none that I would consider proper background for any type of intense aerobic workout (with the possible exception of sex). However, I would invite any to allow Underwater a chance to demonstrate that beauty need not be glaringly blatant, and that power need not be applied via sledgehammer.

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