On Waterstrider’s debut album Nowhere Now, a lot of time is spent wandering, looking for an interesting sound. Plenty of risks are taken. They really enjoy working with duelling high-tuned syncopated guitar rhythms and occasionally pair them with some tribal drumming, with varying degrees of success. The titular track on Nowhere Now shows such ambitious elements, but because of Nate Salman’s ill-fitting falsetto that’s used to death throughout the album, the track doesn’t really get going until the end when he gets rid of all the fluttering and the sound gets a lot tighter. When he stops singing altogether, there’s a really strong minute-long jam to close it out. The two guitars mimic one another perfectly, the drums sound more natural, and then some really nice synth-built tension comes in. It took a little over three minutes of figuring out where to go, but they got to a pretty fun place eventually.

The falsetto works a little better with slightly similar elements on “Calliope” because it’s less busy. The pace is slowed down, so they’re not trying to sound like Iowa-bred Salsa band for a large chunk of it. Both songs, however, make it obvious that going forward, it’s necessary for the band to figure out which of their ideas work best together. For instance, “New Sun” is the album’s most straightforward song, and arguably its strongest. It’s cohesive, it has a solid hook and doesn’t add any timbales just for the hell of it.

The simplicity of “New Sun” works in its favor lyrically, too. In an album filled with lazily put together hooks and imagery pertaining to nature, “a new sun rising, it’s time to come out of hiding,” is by far the least embarrassing. They’ve got multiple references to natural disasters for some reason, as well as a refrain of “you’ll find all the answers, like a cancer” on “White Light” that isn’t catchy enough to warrant such a dumb, confusing line. Does he mean that the fatal disease can also double as a problem solving catalyst, or that only the people who are astrologically aligned to the crab possess such a skill?

watersNowhere Now does have its bright spots, but only when they’re not trying to go for some next level Freak-Folk wonderment that they’re just not ready to hit on yet. “Passing Ships” uses Salman’s falsetto well here, and the rising action happens gradually; not all at once in an atmosphere that the band shouldn’t be venturing off into. For a moment, it seemed as though “Just A Taste” would follow a similar formula, but instead, it meandered on and on.

They also keep it bare boned simple on “Black Blood,” which is why they’re able to keep it engaging from the start. The shift from acoustic plucking to a crescendo of strings bass drum is the most natural, as well as the most legitimately surprising one on the album. Those moments of simplicity are the most enjoyable. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough of them throughout the album.