The thin line between subtlety and impenetrability is explored to great effect on The Green Child’s Shimmering Basset. It’s the second album for the duo of Raven Mahon and Mikey Young, who keep a very low profile: no social media, very little promotion, and their music is in a quiet, beguiling psychedelic style that doesn’t necessarily grab attention, but leaves listeners with plenty to think about and few sure answers. All I really know about this album’s background is that Mahon moved to Australia to live with Young, and they recorded Shimmering Basset together in a new home studio, which might be why it feels a little more focused and cohesive than their initial long-distance collaborations. The retro-futuristic sound they explored on their debut, with the 80s synths and 60s guitars, is still on display, but it’s honed into concise pop gems that are simultaneously challenging and pleasant to listen to.
Mahon’s big move drives a lot of these songs thematically, rooting Shimmering Basset in a more domestic form of psychedelia that they also showed on their single earlier this year, “New Dungeon.” While it is hard to understand a lot of her lyrics, the sound tells the story, and every moment on the album is underpinned with a sense of wonder from someone who is in a new place and is noticing all of these little differences around her. Songs like “Low Desk/High Shelf” and “The Installation” give the feeling of someone in a new home, spotting all of the odd quirks of its décor and falling into a daydream while staring at them. The genius of The Green Child’s music is in its ability to turn something like a bland household item into a portal through time.
In the same way Mahon finds wonder in these familiar items, the duo takes sounds everyone has heard before and turns them into something that feels new and remarkably evocative. “Fashion Light” opens the album with a first half that is somewhat traditional synth pop, but it grows into a stirring conclusion featuring a twinkling synth part, Mahon’s saxophone, and the refrain of “I’ll try to know it” — a good proxy for the experience of listening to this album and trying to figure it out. “Tony Bandana” is the band’s version of an up-tempo rock song, with a twangy guitar part that could have been on album by the Byrds and an earwormy chorus. The woozy instrumental second half of “Health Farm” transports the listener with an eerie synth solo, and it’s another case of the band creating as much intrigue as possible out of simple parts.
Shimmering Basset is about the closest a band has come to replicating what made me so obsessed with Trish Keenan and Broadcast. These are unassuming songs with simple, vague lyrics, but when the quirky sounds are combined with Mahon’s voice, they open up a whole world that is fun and addictive to explore. This album is also an antidote to so much music that is performatively sad and depressing. There is a real sense of joy and imagination in these songs, which feel like the product of two people who have chemistry and enjoy making art together while discovering new sounds and ideas. That part is clear to me, even if everything else on Shimmering Basset is a hazy mystery.