Waterbaby’s ‘22º Halo’ blends experimental electronica with dream-like melody.

The debut album from the South London sister duo is an inventive and captivating listen.

Words: Joshua Tubb

Elusive duo Waterbaby (formed of sisters Martha and Jessica Kilpatrick) have been making waves in London for a number of years. Their mesmerizing live performances and collaborations with fellow experimentalists have created a widespread respect for their unusual craft, cemented by their recent signature to tastemaker label untitled (recs). Their highly anticipated debut album, ’22° Halo,’ takes listeners on a suitably elaborate journey that seamlessly blends experimental electronica with choral singing, folk, krautrock and pop.

Growing up, the Kilpatrick sisters found song to be a valuable means of expressing themselves. As members of the Southwark Cathedral Choir, they immersed themselves in singing, meanwhile honing their recording techniques at home producing experimental cassette tapes. Eventually, the sisters found solace and inspiration in an attic flat they shared in Peckham, combining their talents to forge their niche within south London’s burgeoning underground electronic scene. They have since captivated audiences with hypnotic live performances alongside artists like Kedr Livansky, TAAHLIAH, and Dorian Electra.

Waterbaby’s music is just one strand of their inventive practice, which has also produced audiovisual nights as Leopard and their recent series of zines, ‘No Subject’. An unorthodox interdisciplinarity is just one signifier of the duo’s nonconformist originality. Their inventive and multifaceted debut album further illustrates this quality in Waterbaby’s work.. At last, it expands their discography beyond a contribution to ‘Slow Dance ’19’, ‘I don’t want to sing I don’t want to look’, which for a long time sat tantalisingly on Spotify as their only release.

The album opens with ‘Satin’, a track that emanates an otherworldly mystical aura through its twinkling melodies. Its ethereal sound evokes Grimes’ earlier releases (and that more innocent period of her career). ‘Satin’ propels itself forward, captivating the listener as it spirals and morphs like ferrofluid.

The duo’s gift for pushing boundaries is constantly evident, as their sound evolves and transforms while retaining an underlying rawness that is both captivating and endearing. It is remarkable how seamlessly they blend pop structures with Gregorian and saintly sonic elements, seamlessly transitioning from one to the other without missing a beat. Throughout the album, deep reverb and echo creates a spacious and distant sonic atmosphere. By reinforcing space between each moment, it brings a sense of monumentality to the music, with the gravitas of each action embellished.

As a collection, ‘22º Halo’ is a showcase of Waterbaby’s inventive song structures and intricate layering. This strength is crystallised by closer ‘No Caller ID’, which has its drum beat fading in and out in tandem with a synth pulse. ‘Strawberry Jam’, meanwhile, is an immersive and captivating musical journey that spans seven minutes. With its glacial evolution, the track gracefully guides the listener through a series of unpredictable transitions, seamlessly alternating between dream-like sequences and richly layered production. Described by the artists themselves as a “mood swing,” the song encapsulates a range of emotions and atmospheres, providing a dynamic and enthralling experience for its audience.

Crafted using their collection of diverse analogue equipment in their South East London studio, the album exists in a realm where the swirling ambience of Cocteau Twins intersects with the cutting-edge sounds of contemporary experimental electronica. It is a testament to Waterbaby’s artistic vision and their ability to harmonize the analogue and the digital, creating a unique and insular sonic world.

The potential for difference between analogue and digital technologies within electronic music has grown dramatically in recent years. On ‘22º Halo’, Waterbaby tie the two styles together magically. The combination enlivens ‘Tangerine’ in particular, creating perhaps the highlight of the album. On this debut, the duo solidify their reputation for producing visionary immersive sonic experiences that transcend expectations and genre boundaries.