The cover art to Mr. Gnome’s new album Madness In Miniature brings to mind two pop culture references. Since the rabbit figure appears to be the size of a man, it recalls the character of Frank in the film Donnie Darko. Frank was a man in a demented bunny costume that would come to Donnie Darko in dreams or visions—who really knows. But he would always put Darko up to performing pranks that would supposedly correct a future event. The other cultural reference brought to mind is the story of Alice In Wonderland, as young Alice chases a strange rabbit to fall down his rabbit hole into a world unlike any other. How those two references fit together for Miniature could be surmised as this being a journey down a similar rabbit hole, but into a more demented land of make believe.
Mr. Gnome is the duo of singer/guitarist Nicole Barille and drummer/pianist Sam Meister. Miniature is the third album for the two, though, I must admit to being unaware of their previous efforts. Barille and Meister both seem to be the perfect amount of strange (based on their artsy photos) without it becoming a ballooning distraction. Their music proves that they’re not entirely certifiable.
Barille’s singing and energy could best be compared to Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The familiarity, of which, keeps the album fairly accessible as she sings over arrangements that recall experimental group, Battles. Miniature feels like one piece rather than 12 individual tracks, as many are short and transition the album from one audio assault of raging guitar and pounding drums into another.
Despite the album title’s claim at Madness, there are a few moments where the music is pretty. The next-to-last track “Watch The City Sail Away” is particularly soft and mesmerizing with its Playskool piano, strings, and Barille’s sultry turn warbled vocals. The six-minute-plus “House of Circles” has a similar vibe, with a mostly tensionless buildup to brief moments of chaos. Chaos is their specialty. Barille’s lullaby singing collides with crunching guitar and drums being piledrived on “Bit of Tongue,” one of the album’s most exciting tracks and gives a different perspective to Mr. Gnome.
Thus, they’re not miniature at all.