Sweet, unhurried, and reverby, “Ivory Coast” floats along on a gentle bed of guitar and percussion, its purposeful melody sung with an engaging mix of muddiness and clarity. The verse opens with singer Sarah Versprille sounding a bit far back in the mix, but harmonies added in the second half of the line (0:17) seem to sharpen her presence even as the vocal layers remain kind of blurry and indistinct. That’s kind of a cool trick, actually.
Another cool trick: the verse’s opening melody is seven measures long, an unusual and ear-catching length. The melody then repeats, this time in ten measures, another unusual length. This isn’t anything you will necessarily be aware of, but it adds to the song’s depth and character. In the chorus, we get a twist not only on length of melody (five measures this time) but with time signature, as one measure of six beats is inserted, coinciding with the song’s defining chord change (first heard at 0:54-0:56). With the elusive air of a major-minor alternation, the chord change is concise and melodramatic, and yet comes and goes with an insouciance that almost makes you feel as if you didn’t hear it right. And speaking of chord changes, another signature moment is a chord change added to the second line in the second verse, at 1:33. It comes and goes quickly, but leaves a penetrating aftertaste. This is one artful song.
Versprille and band mate Daniel Hindman became Pure Bathing Culture upon moving from New York City to Portland in early 2011. They played their first show in January 2012. “Ivory Coast” is from the duo’s debut, self-titled EP, which was released this week on Father/Daughter Records. And to show you how well-crafted this song is, check out the simple, acoustic, un-reverby version the two of them perform for the music site Natural Beardy: