Wet Hair: In Vogue Spirit Review
Admittedly it took me awhile to get into In Vogue Spirit, the new LP from Iowa City’s Wet Hair. After listening to the record for the first time my first thought was “great instrumentals but those vocals sound pretty off key.” In past Wet Hair productions vocals haven’t ever seemed as prevalent as they do on Vogue, and after hearing lead singer Shawn Reed’s flat, unorthodox baritone, I began to think that maybe that had been for the better. Of course calling Reed’s vocals “off-key” implies that he is trying (and failing) to craft harmonious vocal melodies. Expecting such an unconventional band to sing conventional melodies was, in retrospect, a fairly obvious mistake. I soon realized that Reed’s approach works for what it is: a deliberately non-conformist approach to singing.
And while my initial reaction to Wet Hair was to notice the vocals, in the grand scheme of Vogue it’s the instrumentals that seem far more important. Reed generally accompanies most tunes with reverberating synthesizer drone that ranges from psychedelic organ (“Liquid Jesus”) to video game-esque electronica (Garden Room”). The band also employs heavily distorted electric guitar, Ryan Garbe’s coarse drum rhythms, and notably, a very well handled bass guitar. The sound comes together into a unique, spaced-out take on krautrock. Tunes like “Echo Lady” and “Fade Til’ Morning” mark some of the band’s most hooky, accessible work to date (the latter is downright anthemic) while the more experimental work proves that they remain as avant garde minded as ever. In this respect the synth and bass led jam “Tarantula” as well as swirly vocal mindfuck “My Heart Is the Spider My Mind Is The Fly” are notable.
On his website Pukekos, Reed once wrote of Wet Hair:
We work with spontaneity, years of playing and practicing together to the point of being almost uncritical or unknowing in the conception of songs. We just turn on the gear and start playing and what flows out before us is the result, we play it, practice it, hone it in until it takes the fully realized shape that we see before us, but it still lies outside our knowing our understanding, it just is a result.
And throughout In Vogue Spirit that loose sense of spontaneity definitely comes through – while not loose in a sloppy sense, Vogue definitely has a free spirited, impulsive feel. The notes and rhythms don’t follow expected patterns and each of the eight tracks has its own surprises. Considering the largely improvisational aspect of the band’s creative process, though, it’s fairly surprising that the songs sound as catchy and approachable as they do. Perhaps that’s simply the mark of a duo (Reed and Garbe) that has been working together long enough to free-form tremendous tunes without having to construct their structures in more deliberate ways. Whatever the case may be, it works for Wet Hair, and with In Vogue Spirit, it seems to have worked better than ever before.
— Jon Behm
In Vogue Spirit will be available on 5/23 via Destijl
Wet Hair: Site