To the Digital Extreme
Shirking the sound and name of his original project Youth Lagoon, Trevor Powers returns rebranded after a three-year absence with an obsession for electric distortion. Wielding his newfound digital violence, Powers combines samples and sounds acquired during his absence with a leaning towards the sinister to create the unique, updated sound on Mulberry Violence. On the new record, Powers has traded in the indie rock sound of his Youth Lagoon days for a kind of deranged electronica. While these two sounds are as distinct from each other as Powers could possibly have made them, the spirit of Youth Lagoon still resonates throughout Mulberry Violence. There’s still the same reserved singing style that helps cement the atmosphere of both projects, the same kind of ambient builds to songs and the overall the same song structures. It is still clearly the same person behind both projects, only now Powers’ main instrument is distortion.
This leaning towards a distorted, occasionally disturbing sound is Powers’ and Mulberry Violence’s greatest success. No other pop record would dare craft a track out of a chilling shriek, while Powers does that exact thing on “Dicegame,” ending up with one of the most compelling beats and visceral experiences on the whole record. Powers has an arsenal of these kinds of sounds at his disposal, organized across ten tracks for maximum impact, often coupled with a lush piano and Powers’ distinct singing style. Powers sings with a gentle lilt—sometimes with discernable lyrics, sometimes with words that come out a sinister whisper, although both modes are equally successful in evoking the darkness of Mulberry Violence.
Embracing this style of digital violence and dark, overpowering emotions, Powers has wholly recreated himself sonically. While Youth Lagoon was heading into a more electronic direction by the end of its three-record existence, Powers has dove head first into the realm of the digital here with the result being one of the most interesting experiments of the year, turning harsh, ugly noise into captivating pop punctuated by Powers’ gentle singing. It’s unfortunate then that Mulberry Violence fails to be as fully rounded of a record as any of the three Youth Lagoon records.
The two opening tracks on the record “XTQ Idol” and “Dicegame” both pulsate darkly with digital violence, an immersive intro into the realms Powers explores across the record. This exploration takes a detour into the minute-long interlude track “Pretend it’s Confetti,” which feels like an interesting idea that could have been thought out more and expanded, into “Clad in Skin,” the most pop track on the record, using a grossly loopy horn sound over an overly accessible beat, a decision that yields the least interesting track on the record. The next track, “Playwright,” swings things back in the right direction, and the rest of the album stays on pace, but it does feel like the album loses the momentum it had built and spends the rest of the running time trying to build it back up
Otherwise, Mulberry Violence offers an experiment worth investing in. Trevor Powers has turned from the indie sound of Youth Lagoon into some stranger dimension of macabre distortion, generating chaotic sounds to pierce the soul. Even if the effort wasn’t a complete success, it’s exciting proof of the capabilities of Powers and his digital violence.