Madness in Miniature

This Cleveland band – singer-guitarist Nicole Barille and drummer-pianist Sam Meister – is at once Rust Belt scrappy and dreamily explosive, like they can't decide if they want to represent their hometown or blow it up. Mr. Gnome's third album evokes the dada bounce of local heroes Pere Ubu, as well as the giddily overheated primitivism of that other Midwestern boy-girl team; they may amble into a toy-piano interlude or let loose an anxious caterwaul over a Sabbath-worthy brick wall of a riff. On "Watch the City Sail Away," Barille sings, "The sky explodes/With a smile," in a voice somewhere between Billie Holiday and Björk – and you get the sense that these two are pretty psyched to see what comes next.

Listen to "House of Circles":

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From The Archives Issue 1145: December 8, 2011