Nonreturner | s/t (s/r)

cd_nonreturner.jpgTheir music reverberates with the stately, supernatural beacons of the world’s iconic mysteries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s initially striking about Columbia, Mo.’s Nonreturner is how their music reverberates with the stately, supernatural beacons of the world’s iconic mysteries—this could be a perfect soundtrack for a trip to a Mayan pyramid or a voyage through the Bermuda Triangle. This sense of adventure carries over to the antipodean motif woven into their musical DNA. Their self-titled debut exudes a sense of having just washed up on dry land after being launched from a distant, austral beach. It’s a more tumultuous take on the epic, textured voyages of Priest=Aura-era Church or the ragged, woolly pop sense of The Chills. Concurrently, Nonreturner plot a northerly journey to a deep, dark English winter, zeroing in on the icy electronica at which the Brits excel. "Horse & Buggy Days" hovers above with the uneasy ineptitude of an off-course UFO, skittering with Squarepusher glitches and the byzantine layers of Radiohead’s Amnesiac. "The Awash" weds further Thom Yorke shenanigans to smashing, diving psychedelic rock straight out of the Verve’s debut. Meanwhile, "Black Clouds" tosses up for grabs a squashed-up packet of wiry, crunchy guitar, cramming the stretched out drones Mark Kozelek would admire into a four-minute package that belies its expansive atmosphere.

Stretching to another degree altogether, "Mysterious Occurrence at the Ice Cream Social" allows Ozric Tentacles style space rock to gently give way to stately, Floydian grooves. There’s even more: "Wake Up Underwater" and "Oh My My" have the commanding presence and immediate, gothic grandeur of early Cure or Echo and the Bunnymen, only with less mascara and a lyric sheet written in ancient glyphs. Everywhere, spacey, intriguing instrumentals, psych-rock, jangle pop, a little bit of shoegaze, and modern electronica are swirled around with the joyous, free-form abandon of a child’s finger painting. A few numbers, especially the lurching "Agoraphobia," even manage to combine all the disparate vibes into a remarkable whole.

Nonreturner is a tough record to pin down; it’s admirable and embraceable, as well as difficult to completely digest, and full of arcane, unfashionable influences. Additionally, these songs would benefit from a bit of focus. While a certain looseness is expected, if not demanded, of this type of music, there’s a fine line between spellbinding, quicksilver soundscapes and boring, jammy meandering. However, this willingness to go with the flow also saturates the record with the foreboding, exhilarating tension of walking a darkened street in an unfamiliar city, waiting for a lurker to jump out from around the corner; the disquiet hangs in the air with the unshakable moisture of a heavy fog, but never overwhelms. The result is a sonically adventurous experience as ever-shifting and mesmerizing as the cover art’s jellyfish. B | Mike Rengel

RIYL: Radiohead circa Kid A and Amnesiac; The Church; a rock-n-roll Autechre, if such a thing dared to exist; The Verve’s first two LPs; the busy three way intersection of psychedelia, indie rock, and IDM

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