Youth Lagoon creates a neo-psychedelic paradise on his 2013 record Wondrous Bughouse. Trevor Powers, the man behind it all, explores the place where mind, body, heart and spirit meet. The album retains the lo-fi vibes that made Youth Lagoon so tantalizingly endearing to listeners, but the neo-psychedelia dominates the record. In essence, Powers tries to bring “Strawberry Fields” into the “bughouse”. The concept is genius, but it’s execution has flaws. In an attempt to let listeners experience music, Youth Lagoon burdens tracks with too much “trippin’ out”. What could have been an atrium of soothing spiritual sounds becomes a swamp of nonsense.
“Through Mind and Back” kicks-off the album and acts like an overture to an opera of the metaphysical. The electronic prelude paints a picture of a colorful verdant rain forest of the mind, and no lack of figurative psychological disfigurement exists. The track covers the whole album thematically and musically, even highlighting some of the major flaws that are throughout. For example, the last minute ends up sounding like a random configuration of electronic insect noises and the sounds one might hear in an opium den.
“Mute” and “Attic Doctor” blend together into hallucinogenic serenades that take you down a river that is both lazy and rapid. The dissonance in “Mute” expresses the difficulty of the journey trying to be conveyed, while “Attic Doctor” features use of a piercing acoustic guitar and spicy castanets. Lyrically the two tracks are extremely disappointing and long instrumental phases become overbearing very quickly.
The first wave of psychedelia is a hot mess, but “The Bath” cleans it up (pun intended). The electro is lo-fi and the piano makes it feel almost natural, as if you really are spending the night in a humid rain forest. The melody is soothing, as if a storm is just briefly passing over to moisturize and cleanse.
“Pelican Man” takes a turn into a soaring daze. Youth Lagoon captures the intended concept well, which is refreshing to know that the whole album isn’t completely lost. It’s an escape of the temporal. A flight to the netherworld of the spirit, and the wind under the wings is the masterly crafted electronic synchronization of sound. However the flight must come to an end, and the minds eye slowly shuts on the flight of the spirit.
“Dropla” has been making splashes in anticipation of the album’s release. The twang of insects is artificially created, and the echo of “You’ll never die” builds up for a climatic flight of a butterfly, or other colorful insect. Playing on the imagery of the title, the tracks repetition and lush ornamentation gives the visual of the seemingly never-ending life cycle of the insect.
“Sleep Paralysis” goes off the deep end. Named after a distressing sleep disorder where the individual is “awake”, cannot move and is subject to horrific hallucinations. The track is eerie, and makes you feel paralyzed by the noise of a perplexing wall of sound.
“Third Dystopia” runs with almost a clockwork rhythm underneath a lunatic lullaby. It’s interesting in it’s own way, but fails to capture the imagination or set itself apart. “Raspberry Cane” also melts in the array of psychedelia. Sickly sweet in sound and incomprehensible in lyric, the track is the worst offender of the long instrumental break.
“Daisyphobia” begins with a grumbling of something fearsome. Powers’ vocals cut in unexpectedly and clearly. The static and the effervescence dies underneath the increasingly more natural influences of the track. An organ ushers the listener out of the metaphysical world. The melting world of the Wondrous Bughouse is disappearing. The dream is over and we may have got some good out of it, but maybe the journey was meant to be a little nightmarish. In any case, the potential is bogged down and never fully realized. The album is lost to the listener, leaving the bitter taste of disappointment with it.
Youth Lagoon – Wondrous Bughouse tracklist:
- “Through Mind and Back”
- “Attic Doctor”
- “The Bath”
- “Pelican Man”
- “Sleep Paralysis”
- “Third Dystopia”
- “Raspberry Cane”