Album Review: Wet Hair – Spill Into Atmosphere

Wet Hair
Spill Into Atmosphere
De Stijl Records

Wet Hair’s fourth LP, Spill Into Atmosphere, is the band’s most accessible to date—a claim I lavished on their third album, 2011’s In Vogue Spirit. The Iowa City trio soldiers along, refining their Krautrock infused ragga even further. Justin Thye (Goldendust) has joined Shawn Reed and Ryan Garbes on bass—taking over for the departed Matt Fenner—and Thye wasted no time making his work indispensable. Wet Hair’s sun-baked jams no longer lie on the sand soaking up the sun, Spill Into Atmosphere is on the beach only long enough to turn around and guide its board back into some juicy surf.

Atmosphere opens with what might be Wet Hair’s finest pop tune, “Grey Palisades.” Garbes’ rolicking drums come roaring out of the past from some lost surf-rock anthem, Thye’s phase-shifted bass bubbles and playful synth lines romp about like hummingbirds bobbing from blossom to blossom before Reed’s baritone comes bellowing in, “Grey Palisades” is already the feel-good hit of the summer if you love Kraftwerk.

On the second track, “Color and Shape,” Wet Hair finds a stutter-stepping groove on Garbes’ Ganesh-like drumming. The oscillating keyboard work and undulating bass eventually sooth the savage beast at the kit and the track collapses in a heap, sweaty and euphoric as Reed winds the tune down with a lilting mantra.

The biggest improvement over In Vogue Spirit is that the tracks without live drumming don’t feel as stale and lifeless compared to the tracks with Garbes wielding the sticks. “Blank Sunday” doesn’t allow the minimalist, looped beat to shackle it to one speed or vibe. Wet Hair ride the same clip-clopped beat through a tightly wound and tense verse, a synth explosion of a chorus and a cacophonic, psychedelic break down at the end. On top of the sweet summery sounds of this poppier Wet Hair, the trio is also stepping up their arrangement game.