Self-released last year, Mr. Gnome's debut LP, "Deliver This Creature" is a distinctive blend of arty, face-melting guitar shred and billowing space-psych, propelled by drummer Sam Meister's muscular backbeat and guitarist Nicole Barille's willowy croon.
The Cleveland duo ebbs from an airy, shambling shimmer to gut-busting thunder, transiting moods like a roller coaster. But for all the promises the album fulfilled, last year's tour got off to an auspicious start.
"We bought this new van and were pulling out of the driveway, waving goodbye and it broke down at the edge of the drive," Barille said. "It was pretty funny, but a shitty feeling, and then it started raining outside on top of it. So we had all our stuff, ready to go, standing in the rain, waiting for the AAA guy."
Their stuff spent most of last year in storage, as they hardly spent enough time off the road to justify an apartment. Mr. Gnome was essentially homeless during the recording of "Deliver This Creature," contributing to the disc's claustrophobic feel.
"Making that album, there was almost more of a desperation hanging over the whole thing because we were living on the West Coast, kind of couch surfing. It was just a different vibe, whereas this one was like us hibernating all winter and getting intoxicated," she said.
"This one" is "Heave Yer Skeleton," a more eclectic record traversing an even wider expanse of emotions from the pretty, piano-driven title track which recalls early Björk, to the bounding "Vampire," which bites with an off-kilter twee.
"I definitely listen to some poppy stuff every once in a while, and it started creeping into the writing," Barille said. "We actually have a couple more songs like that, but shied away from putting them on there, because we didn't want to go too far into left field."
The duo's mesmerizing blend of fluffy, elongated textures and sharp, visceral crunch stands out among their peers. The musicians' skill extends beyond technical wizardry or monumental riffage; there's an evocative flow to their style-mashing sound.
"We've always been big fans of psychedelic, as well as bands like Portishead " just hitting that total spaced-out sound," Barille said. "But we also love The Stooges' gritty rock 'n' roll style. I just don't think we've ever shied from missing them both."
Mr. Gnome has already begun work on a new album for next year. Barille is very excited by the process, which has found their disparate influences coalescing into something different and even more uniquely their own.
"It's almost becoming a combination of both of our past albums. I've been going off on little tangents where maybe before we were a little afraid to, and just didn't go into that territory," she said. "It's an exciting time. We'll just see what happens."
Mr. Gnome with EOTO, Old Canes and Vangough perform at 8 p.m. Sunday at The Conservatory, 8911 N. Western. "Chris Parker