Music

Through Mind and Back

Youth Lagoon Wades in Wondrous Waters

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ON YOUTH LAGOON'S debut, 2011's contemplative The Year of Hibernation, songwriter/auteur Trevor Powers spent a period of seclusion mapping the thoroughfares of his psyche—via shy and hypnotic synth noise, veiny guitar melodies, and deeply personal lyrics. That depth of privacy and sense of dysphoria aren't any less prevalent on Powers' follow-up, Youth Lagoon's Wondrous Bughouse.

It's certainly a smidge loopier though. "Bughouse is an older word used for an insane asylum," says Powers. "I'm fascinated by the way some people see the world. People who are deemed insane can see things I can't see, and things I wouldn't want to see. At times, I've really felt insane. That's probably why it interests me."

Powers' magical soundscapes come swathed in trance-like melodies. They can be delivered like broken lullabies (as found on "Sleep Paralysis") or trippy cartoon jingles (heard on "Attic Doctor"); they can be anchored by fractured, fragile yelps that seem to nearly collapse on themselves before carrying out their intended message.

"With this record, it was really about trying to destroy the filters my mind puts up, and just speak," Powers says. "People get used to doing something a certain way, and because of that, it makes you susceptible to feeling apathetic. I've been trying to tap into my subconscious more, and that's what a lot of this record is."

For Wondrous Bughouse, Powers' aural ship was steered by his fascination with the human psyche and where the spiritual meets the physical world. Metaphysics and pop music don't make obvious bedfellows, and the heavier overtones of Bughouse can be easily overlooked in favor of its sparkling patina. Still, there is a sense of doom on Bughouse that centers on mortality—a curious inspiration for someone who's so young.

"There's that spiritual dimension going on at all times around us," says Powers. "Sometimes when I'd go off alone working on this record, I'd really feel it. I wanted to capture a piece of that sort of mental state sonically, sometimes by having a plan for what I wanted to achieve and other times by experimenting. Sounds are completely endless, and each one carries a different sort of feeling. This record was me just beginning to explore that." 

When you hear the repeated refrain "You'll never die" on the pensive chillwave track "Dropla," you're convinced of a delusional narrator, regardless of the context. Similarly, "Attic Doctor" projects a playful panorama with toy-piano cash register "chings!" along with creepily austere lines like, "'I won't die easily'/That's what you said after you watched the disease spread/The doctor conceals a grin to tell her she couldn't have babies."

"I'm into dark sounds musically," says Powers, "but those that can be interpreted two completely different ways. It's like when you hear a laugh. Laughter is obviously the 'happiest' expression, but if it's heard in the wrong context or even goes on too long, it can sound terrifying."

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