If The Year of Hiberation, Trevor Powers’s debut album under the name Youth Lagoon, felt like riding a slow-moving, psychedelic county-fair carousel, then his sophomore effort, Wondrous Bughouse, is like being strapped into the spinning teacups at Disney World while on psychotropic drugs. This woozy, slightly out-of-focus aesthetic is a sharp U-turn, arriving after the pixie-dust electro-pop of Hibernation — it’s as if Powers grew disinterested in idyllic prettiness and purposely decided to uglify and intensify his trademark sound.
“Through Mind and Back” opens Bughouse with two minutes of discordant, fractured ambience, and the vibe only gets weirder from there: “Attic Doctor” is a trippy spookhouse waltz with dilapidated carnival synths, and “Pelican Man” channels the proggy mysticism of Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd. Even the warmest, cuddliest tracks here (like the mortality-driven fairy tale “Dropla”) find curious ways to meander and wilt: Check “Sleep Paralysis,” with Powers just missing those high notes; or “Mute,” with its organs chiming in and out of tune; or “The Bath,” in which percussion loops abruptly shift in tempo — a detour from the track’s emotional crescendo. But these left-field nuances offer Powers’s music grit and dynamic range: Even at its strangest, Wondrous Bughouse is never less than fascinating.