[HEAVY POP] Amateur Hypnotist opens with 3½ minutes of queasy, warped-tape instrumental fare. That shaky stretch of sound serves as fair warning to ye brave souls who dare venture beyond. Though Hypnotist is a pop record, it is—even more so than Incredible Yacht Control's first three bedroom-built full-lengths—so stylishly recorded that one must spend a few listens just pulling songs out from the wreckage before the collection resembles anything like a traditional pop album.
IYC godhead Bret Vogel, whom the faithful still recognize as frontman for long-dormant rock act Crosstide, is now so adept at writing masterful, impressionistic pop songs that he seems almost bored by the prospect. Instead, he focuses on stretching the limits of his majestic, if bargain-basement, wall of sound while leaving listeners a bread-crumb trail of twisted hooks to keep them listening until the next reverb-drenched experiment. The album is decorated with brief, transitional instrumentals and song excerpts that come entirely out of left field. That vulturelike approach—one championed by artists like Robert Pollard and Cody Chesnutt—makes Amateur Hypnotist feel at once more avant-garde and haphazard than the previous efforts.
When Vogel does shake a truly self-contained pop song down from Hypnotist's complicated branches—especially on the disc's first half—the results are extremely encouraging. While "Nothing Ever Happens" is (in classic IYC form) a sonic dead-ringer for the Supremes' "Come See About Me," the delicate "Ungrateful Gohd" and the shoegazey "Japanese Skyline" evidence a focused and earnest new direction for Vogel's music. "Wall Wart" and closer "We Became Wives" find Vogel successfully staking out territory somewhere between My Bloody Valentine and the Beach Boys. Like much of Hypnotist, those songs aren't particularly easy first listens. After living with this album for seven months, though, I can confirm it ages particularly well, and that Vogel has not lost his title as Portland's most compelling home-recording enthusiast.
SEE IT: Incredible Yacht Control plays Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison St., on Wednesday, Aug. 22, with Beisbol, Charts and Sleepyvillain. 8:30 pm. $5. 21+.