Revisiting the brief but pungent catalog of No One Mind, the project of Durham singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Ellis Anderson, is like hearing a dream-pop band cutting the safety net and swan-diving deep into the dream.
On Secondary Gain, released in June, the raw edges of ressentiment that made their 2016 debut abrasive and exciting (it was a vessel for Anderson, Missy Thangs, and Noah Dehmer to process the breakup of their prior band) have been smoothed into sculptural planes that form electro-pop monuments, each housing their own musical physics.
Combining elements of krautrock, new wave, new age, and shoegaze, it’s a sure shot for fans of Twin Shadow, Echo and the Bunnymen, Tangerine Dream, or Tears for Fears, fake British accent included.
This time, Anderson—who sings in a mirage-like baritone, alongside spending time on the guitar, piano, synths, and drums—is joined by musicians Sam Logan, Reed Benjamin, and Saman Khoujinian. Missy Thangs recorded the album, and Ari Picker—whose music as Dante High the album recalls in its most unabashed ’80s synth-pop moments—mixed it.
The record oozes into being with “Premonition,” which is as tense and groovy as a blacklight poster. Here and throughout, much of the melodic mobility happens in the bass, which dips and wends around towering slabs of guitar, synths, and drums, with miniature abstract scrollwork stuffed in every corner.
The songs can also be bright and anthemic, as on “Golden Enemy,” or minimal and filmy, as on “Covered in Roses,” or dewy and dashing, as on “Ray Road,” but they uniformly feel enhanced by the intricacy of the studio work rather than reliant on it, as the vocals are quite affecting.
The video for the title track, which sounds like a haunted music box, is the perfect visual expression of the album’s unique emotional texture: it’s just Anderson’s face, slightly distorted and floating in a dark void, isolated, eerie, yet intimately human.
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