There are good songs under all these new-wave effects, but they never quite come to the surface.
Despite its variety of sound, the Sacred Bones label seems to have a thick, uniform gauze that runs across its catalog. Players like Zola Jesus and Effi Briest, who have enjoyed growing popularity, take that atmosphere in different directions, but it is there. So, too, is it present on Gary War's Police Water EP. Here, though, the effect is far more confusing. The opening seconds to "Born of Light", dealing in dissonant sound and rhythmic, far-off drums, provides an arresting opening for the set, one as intriguing in its rumble as it is defiantly haunting. From there, however, the EP bloats into a steady new-wave fog that is hard to decipher. Vocals are barely there, buried down in the mixed and muddled by effects. Guitars, keyboards, and other effects clash against each other and tangle into a blippy, droning wall of sound. "On Its Head", the moodiest of these pieces, is the only one that gives itself enough space to stretch out. The keys there are echoing and big, the gaps between them striking. Everywhere else, all you get is the drum machine clashing its way through this thick mix. Police Water certainly seems intricate, and carefully constructed, but in the final mix it's hard to separate its parts out, and further spins just make for the same head-scratching. There are good songs under all these effects -- you can hear the hooks deep down -- but they just never quite come to the surface.