On Trevor Powers' 2011 debut, he crafted a remarkably literal picture of Youth Lagoon -- the hypnotic yet booming drift-offs were the clear reverberations of a 21 year-old isolated in the massive openness of Idaho; the floating daydreams and internal ponderings echoing off a watery stillness. Wondrous Bughouse is an equal literalism of the direct response to those metaphysical questions. The minimalist sounds of existential musing have been answered with overwhelming response, and the result is a dizzying reaction -- like he's hearing a legion of deities shouting back at him while he tries to sort out which one's right.
Hearing all these voices in his head makes for a truly wondrous employment of over-production, and a solid set of headphones will immerse you into that same Wonkified, sonic mélange. Stereophonic Transmutation would have been an equally apt title for this record. The warmly bizarre, sporadic nature of the opening instrumental, "Through Mind and Back," is essentially an auditory 'Fasten Your Seatbelt' sign, and a minute after it's bled into the triumphant "Mute" you've already taken a far more epic journey than you did at any point during The Year of Hibernation. Songs of celebratory explosion are the common theme here, but they're interspersed with twisted tunes lifted from broken merry-go-rounds that sound like the kind of thing Syd Barrett's imaginary friend would have composed.
The biggest improvement upon the last record though, is that you can actually understand the words Powers sings on Bughouse. No longer shyly hiding behind an ocean of reverb, he proudly sings his dogmatic epiphanies -- at times sounding like a young kid explaining his first acid trip to his older brother, and at other times making some relatively poignant statements about temporal existence. "Dropla" may be the first time I've ever been genuinely moved by the existential statements of someone a decade my junior. The true moment of consummation appears in "Raspberry Cane." The first two minutes are like being absorbed Tron-style into an Atari 2600, then it suddenly opens into a circular McCartney descension that you wish would never end. If this was the new David Bowie album, people would have called it one of the greatest records of all time, but Mr. Stardust hasn't been this blown away by the universe in 40 years. These are the lofty dreams of a young kid from Boise, and that makes them far more relevant than the croons of a Brixton chap in his sixties.