Wondervisions is an eclectic combination of fuzzy psychedelia and pop sensibility — think an instrumental, collaborative pairing of Robert Fripp and Dave Longstreth of Dirty Projectors — though not the sort of sensibility which would see one inclined to include such norms as ‘vocals’ and ‘structure.’ There’s structure, but it’s all been twisted about and bent out of shape in the best of ways.
It should come as no real surprise that Wondervisions, then, is being re-released by David Byrne’s Luaka Bop label. It made its debut in 2009 and is now being given new life. When we consider some of the utter weirdness going on here, it’s hard not to imagine Byrne sitting back, smiling or perhaps nodding. Luaka Bop is typically home to ‘world music’ — whatever that may mean — but don’t think this fits neatly in the field. Sure, Delicate Steve may pull some influence from world music (I can hear something akin in the percussion. African, maybe?) but this is something less easily pegged into the genre. In fact, if this were released on a different label, I’d never have thought to take a world music ear to this.
This is glimmery. This is shiny. This is jangly. More, this is pop. Western pop, no less. It’s pop with a bit of Fripp & Eno sensibility to it, and when those arpeggiated melodies kick in, contorted expressions are replaced by smirks of acknowledgment and satisfaction. Steve Marion (aka Delicate Steve) is a clever, clever man, and Wondervisions is an exposition of his songwriting madness. There’s an indelible freshness to these tracks, and a growing sense that this is, perhaps, music of the future. Any sense of antiquation is exorcised from the album to such an extent that it’s been propelled to much the opposite position. A bold prediction? Expect more of this in 2040.
In all seriousness, Wondervisions isn’t hard to handle. There’s nothing abrasive here to worry about, and the variation in structure and theme is exciting enough. When things venture to the more psychedelic side, and the instrumentation shifts and wiggles around a theme, this glows. It’s in a class all its own.