Music

Youth Lagoon's Trevor Powers Explores His Experimental Side on 'Mulberry Violence'

Photo: Chris Schoonover

Youth Lagoon's Trevor Powers reclaims his name and his creative freedom on experimental album Mulberry Violence.

Mulberry Violence
Trevor Powers

Baby Halo

17 August 2018

In 2016, Trevor Powers retired his project Youth Lagoon because it had grown too confining, and he had done all he could within the expectations he set for the group. This year, Powers returns, not reinvented, but stripped down to his rawest self. Under his own name and on his own label, Baby Halo, he released single "Playwright" in May, including with its debut a handwritten note, discussing "inaudible voices that scream when we're alone and mumble when we're not" and asserting that "every person alive is full of opposing forces" in introducing his new stylistic world.

Life's opposing dichotomies, and the pressure therein form the basis of Mulberry Violence, the first album Powers has released since Youth Lagoon's trilogy, and across the album, Powers lets himself react to pain and tension with introspection and furious release. The final result: ten sonically experimental tracks that see Powers fearlessly dive into some of the rawest moments of the human experience and, most importantly, come through it still whole.

The tone of the album is unambiguous from the start. "XTQ Idol" opens the album with glitching shouts, Powers' already otherworldly voice - powerful for how fragile it can sound - processed and layered over apocalyptic synth static. As mechanical as it is, it's still a fully human dissonance, the electric feeling of panic and rage stretching a mind so thin that it threatens to rip. Powers, though, never falls apart. He presses forward, all the while painting with an aural palette that perfectly matches his lyrics and that demonstrates his technical prowess and finesse.

Though the emotion is unfiltered, the care taken with each arrangement is painstaking, from the spooky retro horns that lend a French cabaret touch to "Clad in Skin" to the creeping pizzicato string sounds of low-key groove "Ache". It's a balancing act necessary to fully realizing Powers' creative vision, as well as one that takes his expressions from simply sincere to truly poignant. "Playwright" may be the truest evidence of the care Powers has taken, the minimalist accompaniment to his voice featuring delicate keys and only the occasional burst of rumbling noise as he gets personal: "Evidence you ever lived no longer exists / Except the heart inside your kids / I still cry for you, I still hear your voice when I speak."

Though Mulberry Violence could rightly be termed experimental - there's nothing standard or predictable about this music - there is also something classically appealing about each song. Powers has a strong sense of melodic structure and does not rely on shock and awe tactics in his explorations. Instead, he makes music that is accessible, not because it conforms to norms, but because it comes from a place of truth. The stories Powers tells rely as much on aesthetics as lyrical content. No element is taken for granted in his holistic approach; Powers chooses the best sounds to amplify the darkness of anguish or to set the right tone for tales of abuse or abandonment.

By beginning to make music under his own name, Trevor Powers has opened himself up to a new range of possibilities. Mulberry Violence makes it clear that he has the artistic scope and emotional depth to take full advantage of the opportunities he has given himself, and the versatility to keep things very interesting.

7

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Music

GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".

Music

Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".

Music

Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.