Following his sprawling bedroom electronica/disco/lounge debut Dirty Glow by three years, Mister Divine was harvested from hours of material written by Nate Brenner while touring the world as bass player for Merrill Garbus' tUnE-yArDs and sporadically for his solo project, Naytronix. The surprisingly streamlined outcome takes on a new synth pop flavor, due largely to having recorded the album as a trio with guitarist Mark Allen-Piccolo and percussionist Robert Lopez. Still distinctly experimental, more articulate arrangements and a reliable vocal presence make for a more welcoming, song-oriented electro-pop. The album opens with wind effects, guitar, and bass before hearing a single bleep, and then launches into flittering electronics, bongo-type percussion, and laid-back vocals for a wistful, strolling "Mr. Divine" that, it turns out, signals a much more consistently reflective tone than its predecessor. That doesn't mean the record lacks for keyboard and guitar noodling ("Dream"), playful polyrhythms ("Starting Over"), tempo ("Shadow"), or catchiness (clap-along "I Don't Remember"); rather, it remains angst-ridden or at least blasé throughout. The lyrics reflect the curbed tone, as in "Back in Time" ("Sometimes I want to go back") and "The Future" ("I hope to understand just any sort of explanation/Is this life or simulation?"), both with big bass grooves, gurgling effects, and dissatisfied vocals. Likewise, "Living in a Magazine" presents a druggy, rhythmically frenetic, funneled dreamscape that again questions reality ("It seems so real though I'll never know"). In the end, the more even tone and efficient arrangements are improvements for a project that doesn't skimp on whimsy; Mister Divine stays well clear of dullness or lazy musicality while providing plenty of loungy grooves and ruminative fare for late-night (possibly robot-delivered) martinis.
AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson