[PSYCHEDELIC POP] On 2009's Apple's Acre, Nurses sounded like a gang of tykes who had snuck off to their parents' basement and recorded an album after the babysitter fell asleep. Think an avant-pop Muppet Babies, banging out desktop rhythms on makeshift percussion and tinkering with out-of-tune pianos, with a vocalist singing in a pinched nasal croon like Bunsen Honeydew battling a sinus infection. It was amateurish in the best sense: a record that stumbled upon its own unique world because the artists didn't seem to know where they were going.
With Dracula—Nurses' third album overall and second since finding its way from Idaho to Portland—the band remains inside that world, only now it has mapped the terrain. Gone is the ramshackle construction and wide-eyed whimsy of Apple's Acre, replaced by sturdier grooves, stickier melodies (just try getting the chorus of opener "Fever Dreams" out of your head) and brighter colors. It's a densely layered yet wide-open record, employing the reverb-doused expansiveness—and, on "Dancing Grass," the melodicas—of dub, except instead of drifting through space, the album conjures the feeling of floating on the ocean. Guitars, keyboards and other indecipherable noises refract off the wavy, shimmering pulses of "Wouldn't Tell" and "So Sweet," and there's always something swishing, swirling or whirring behind singer Aaron Chapman's hyper-adenoidal voice.
It's an immersive listen, but it's not without moments of pure pop confection: "Trying to Reach You," all finger snaps and plinking piano, is Nurses' most straightforward tune yet, and yet it's the perfect song to soundtrack the coming fall. Grab the headphones and bliss out.
SEE IT: Nurses releases Dracula at Holocene on Thursday, Sept. 22, with Au, Wet Wool and DJ Jeffrey Jerusalem. 8:30 pm. $8. 21+.