Water From Your Eyes, “Barley” (Matador)

The law of buzz bands, as determined by years of observation: about 25% of them deserve the hype. Typically found on well-funded labels such as 4AD, XL, Mute, Merge, and Sub Pop, buzz bands often fade out after an album or two. (Who still plays their Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Cymbals Eat Guitars albums? Who's anticipating a sophomore slump from Wet Leg?)

Freshly minted buzz band Water From Your Eyes have accrued a fair amount of excitement with their Matador debut, Everyone's Crushed, and even if the Brooklyn duo vanish in a puff of pixel dust tomorrow, they still will have left an impressive document.

On Everyone's Crushed, WFYE indulge their weirdest instincts—contrary to what you'd expect of a group making its jump to the big leagues. Nonchalantly tossing aside commercial considerations, WFYE (Rachel Brown and Nate Amos) instead frolic on the fringes where noise rock, art song, and industrial dub lock horns. Theirs is not a crowded lane. Which is odd when you listen to their earlier releases. The 2017 EP Feels a Lot Like scans as fairly standard, melodious indie rock that doesn't hint at WFYE's future quirkiness.

But you can hear the band edge toward stranger territory on 2021's Structure. “My Love's” is a spare yet absurdly bass-heavy post-punk oddity with shell-rattling percussion enhancement. “Quotations” features staccato, ruptured rhythms like an industrial punch press gone haywire and blaring textures, but Brown's dulcet vocals incongruously waft through the chaos. It's not clear how Matador figured WFYE would break through the clutter, but bless 'em for taking a chance.

"Everyone's Crushed" blends stalking dub bass and beats with what sounds like a detuned zither and Brown's desultory vocals, but things speed up and slow down without warning and a chintzily distorted guitar that sounds as if it escaped from a nascent Sonic Youth tribute band pricks up ears. Brown sings with resignation: “I'm in love with everyone and everything hurts/I'm with everyone I hurt and everything's love.” The bridge sounds like wild boars furiously mating.

“True Life” pits a motorik rhythm with wildly distorted and stunted guitar riffs over which Brown stoically reports like a correspondent of the emotion-deficient. On the last song, “Buy My Product,” Brown deadpans, “There are no happy endings/There are only things that happened/Buy my product” over a bass-intensive, new-wave jitter, like UK post-punks Delta 5 on amphetamines.

Album standout “Barley” thrives because of its inhuman churn, its gloriously monotonous and indelible guitar hook, and its intensifying, nervous-breakdown tension. Brown musters their prettiest singing amid the warped clangor, lamenting “another long day at the not killing myself factory” as they “count mountains” to cope. “Barley” might be too abnormal to become a wage-slave anthem, but stranger things have happened.

Water From Your Eyes perform October 7 at the Crocodile with Melody's Echo Chamber.

Future Museums, “Elephant Mask” (SFI Recordings)

Seattle label SFI Recordings continues to solidify its status as one of the country's top purveyors of cosmic-ambient music. The company's prolific year so far has yielded beautiful releases by Paul Riedl, Timothy Fife, and PhaseShifter.

Now comes Dorsal Fin, the 12th album by Elgin, Texas, musician Neil Lord, aka Future Museums. Since 2015, Lord has been lofting aural clouds of bliss with scientific rigor and angelic zeal, so he naturally fits in with SFI's roster of high-minded synth musicians. (Lord also plays guitar, which helps to differentiate his material from his label mates'.)

SFI's press release notes that Dorsal Fin is a paean to the ocean and its enigmatic ecosystem. I'm not convinced that assessment totally holds water (you better believe pun is intended), but the album is definitely a buoyant (g)listening experience. “Lemon Verbena,” spangles, soars, and hypnotizes with the pointillist majesty of Fripp & Eno's Evening Star. “Parisian Pine” similarly ascends on super-oxygenated synth drones and translucent guitar notes that tint your headspace with painterly aplomb.

“Frozen Undertow” evokes Stars of the Lid's lush languor and comforting stasis. The gently undulating and bubbling “Ringmaster” feels as soothing as riding an underwater merry-go-round. The awe-inspiring “Crumbs (Epilogue)” tintinnabulates and whorls in the vicinity of David Byrne and Brian Eno's “Mountain of Needles.”

But it is on “Elephant Mask” where Dorsal Fin peaks. It's the record's most sinister and beautiful track. Its turbid arpeggios and Vini Reilly-esque, hall-of-mirrors guitar jangles create a brilliant contrast of timbres. Listening to it, one feels at any moment that one could be strangled by a squid or bodied by a sperm whale. Make no mistake—it's a (sea)sick tune.

Future Museums performs Friday June 23 at Chapel Performance Space as part of an Evening of Inner Reflections. Elrond and New Frontiers also play, and yoga instructor/hypnotherapist Karen Gamble will do energy work and lead a guided meditation.