mr. Gnome is a band built on extremes: For starters, the Cleveland act is extremely small -- just tiny singer and guitarist Nicole Barille and drummer Sam Meister -- and the band's music alternates between extremely soft and extremely loud. Barille's voice blares like a police siren, then shrinks to a whisper; her guitar crunches like a Panzer tank, then rings like a wind chime; and Meister positively beats the hell out of his kit.
But mr. Gnome's less obvious extremes are the most intriguing. The duo's music is extremely creepy, and just as weird: atmospheric aggro-rock with haunting, dead-eyed baby-doll sweetness. These are lullabies for the damned -- hushed and lovely, then fiery and tortured. As my old editor at Paste Magazine once gushed, mr. Gnome "sounds like ethereal Icelandic fairies being pummeled by concrete guitars in a dirty Cleveland parking lot."
The band's debut, Deliver This Creature, set the stage for last year's masterfully spooky Heave Yer Skeleton. Invited by Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme, mr. Gnome recorded the album in Homme's Pink Duck Studios, then had it mixed by Beau Sorenson (Death Cab for Cutie, Tegan and Sara).
The result is a wriggling, teeth-gnashing near-masterpiece. Titles like "Today Brings a Bomb," "Vampires" and "Pixie Dust" set an appropriate mood for what's to come: a bloody, violent mess ... with some sparkling magic sprinkled on top.
Mr. Gnome with Electric Pear and School of Athens. 9 p.m. Thu., Nov. 4. Lava Lounge, 2204 E. Carson St., South Side. $5. 412-431-5282 or www.lavaloungepgh.com
- Extremely creepy: mr. Gnome