So many bands have tended to pull from the “indie rock” part of the 1980s — the edgy rock and punk and hardcore bands that embody the DIY ethos, and all that. But lately we’re starting to get bands wistful for the other half of that decade, the side that punk was rebelling against: the commercialized, MTV-ready, Reagan-ized pop music that dominated the radio charts. Don’t get me wrong, I love a lot of this music, if not back then when I was too little, then now as I’ve come to discover that music with new ears. In fact, just this year groups like CHVRCHES and HAIM have nailed that sound, but modernize it with buoyant and inventive electronics and killer hooks that demonstrate tightly-wound songcraft behind the polish.
Pure Bathing Culture has touches of that sound too, but with something closer to a glittery New Wave-meets-New Age tone: the sparkly chimes, the silky smooth synth flourishes, and breathy vocals, just a little too airy to deliver much emotion beyond broken-hearted.
Pure Bathing Culture writes the kind of winsome, crystalline pop songs steeped in a hazy past remembered only through hissy VHS home movies that have been played a few too many times. With its debut album Moon Tides, the Portland, Ore. duo — Sarah Versprille and Daniel Hindman, formerly of Vetiver — worked with producer extraordinaire Richard Swift to evoke a sound capturing the sun-dappled 1970’s cuddle rock, ’80s radio pop, and the alluring and wobbly melodies of artists like Kate Bush or Cocteau Twins.
Moon Tides is a record that filters those pristine, high-end influences through lo-fi production sounds: thrift shop drum machines, reverb-drenched guitar arpeggios and shimmering keyboards that seem to dissipate into the ether. Whether by calculated choice, or simply a by-product of not having the kind of money to spend to fully achieve the sheen of bands of that era (probably the latter), Pure Bathing Culture and Swift’s production actually grounds these songs with more tasteful application of the genre tropes, and side-step sounding as syrupy.
Still, with heart-aching three-minute gems like “Pendulum” and “Only Lonely Lovers,” Pure Bathing Culture proves adept at rendering those nostalgic moods into songs both timeless and earnest.