It’s a rare and beautiful thing when a band emerges fully formed, but it makes perfect sense in the case of guitarist Daniel Hindman and keyboardist Sarah Versprille’s Pure Bathing Culture. Having backed folk rock revisionist Andy Cabic in Vetiver, the New Yorkers partnered up and moved West in 2011, settling in Portland, Oregon. Building off their past experiences as musical collaborators, in a short time the duo have created a sound that is undeniably their own: soaring synths, chiming keyboards, and shimmering electric guitars move in lockstep with bouncing drum machines. Sarah’s crystalline voice floats on top of it all with divine purpose. It’s a sound that looks back momentarily for inspiration — Talk Talk, Prefab Sprout, Cocteau Twins — but then fixes its gaze firmly on the present.
Further developing the sound of their acclaimed four song, self-titled 2012 EP, at the start of 2013 they set out to record Moon Tides, their first full length album. Again, they chose to work with producer Richard Swift at his National Freedom studio in rural Cottage Grove, Oregon. Throughout 2012 Swift had called on the duo to help him with other studio projects (Versprille sings on Foxygen’s latest LP and Hindman adds his sprawling guitar work to Damien Jurado’s excellent Marqopa) which only helped to cement the threesome’s musical partnership. For Moon Tides they continued where the previous EP left off, bolstered by Swift’s belief in the duo’s artistic vision and their unique sound, “From very early on, Richard was the person telling us that what we were hearing and wanting to do musically (which at times could feel a little strange or embarrassing to us) was ok and valid and that we should pursue it.”
Like the earlier sessions for the EP, they worked quickly in the studio and improvised parts around the basic song structures that they’d carefully composed up in Portland. Dan explains, “Pretty much all tracks (vocals and instruments) are all first or very early takes. Richard is kind of a stickler about this and I actually don’t go in with a clean, pristine idea of what I’m going to play on guitar or any other instrument for that matter, so there’s actually a lot of improvisation as far as performances in the studio go.” The results, like the earlier EP, are astounding: the arrangements feel fresh and imaginative, the melodies are unforgettable and the finished songs, most importantly, feel intensely human and deeply spiritual.
It’s this compassion and warmth in Pure Bathing Culture that set them apart. The music is uplifting. It invites self-reflection. It never feels alienating. This, confirms the band, is no accident: “Concepts of spirituality, self actualization, 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.” To that point, even the album title Moon Tides alludes to self-discovery: “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.” While these heady themes can be difficult to explore in a pop song, Pure Bathing Culture makes it feel effortless. “Pendulum” is a perfect mid-tempo album opener that pulses and shines. Other standout tracks from the album — “Dream The Dare”, “Twins”, “Scotty” and “Golden Girl” — are slices of reverb-drenched, soulful, danceable electro-pop, that musically and lyrically tap into an introspective worship of the natural and psychic mysteries that surround us. Pure Bathing Culture’s debut album Moon Tides is optimistic modern music for souls who seek to explore the infinite.