New York band Erica Eso's second album, the new 129 Dreamless GMG, contorts synth-pop music into all sorts of abstract shapes, only to accentuate what's so fun and alluring about it in the first place. On tracks like "Love-gun" and "House That's Always Burning," songwriter Weston Minissali's lead vocals are just tremulous and wan enough to bleed a little into the band's gauzy synth patches, but Minissali is always building on subtly cracked melodic foundations, making hooky gratification work hand-in-hand with weird little digressions and spikes of dissonance. These songs can almost make you forget that you're listening to somewhat experimental music, but you wouldn't exactly lump them in with the Purity Rings of the world.
"Mirror-Stage I" and "Mirror-Stage II" are more wide-open and texture-focused, but it's in tighter, song-oriented territory where this eccentric jam of a project really thrives. Bassist Nathaniel Morgan and percussionist Angelica Bess help to give Minissali's vocals a little extra melodic backbone and a little extra ethereal body. Drummer Rhonda Lowry and synth player Lydia Velichkovski keep the songs grounded in hooky, propulsive territory without ever quite lapsing into dance-pop clichés. Erica Eso shares the bill here with two excellent Madison-based solo acts, electro-pop outsider Tippy and empathetic sonic explorer Julian Lynch. —Scott Gordon