The second volume of unreleased work from Warren Defever's teenage years, Return to Never (Home Recordings 1979-1986, Vol. 2) is a more shadowy set of tracks than All the Mirrors in the House, but it's just as compelling. Like its predecessor, this collection is skillfully curated and sequenced to create a listening experience that's seamless, but not too smooth. In fact, Return to Never is bookended by pieces swathed in noise. Gloriously thick analog hiss buffets the opening track, waves of distortion crash over "Lake Night"'s dulcet drones, and the sandblasted textures of "Morning Machine" nod to industrial as well as musique concrete. Later, "Gone"'s super-saturated hard rock culminates in a triumphant skree of feedback that adds another dimension to the collection's celebration of rough-edged sounds.
In between these outbursts, more melody creeps into Return to Never, making for some of its loveliest moments. "Piano V"'s backwards melody and rhythm have a swooping, weightless quality that sounds like the missing link between psychedelia and dream pop, while "To Remember" blurs into an alluring loop. Defever's guitar emerges from the haze on the standouts "Early Version" and "Guitar Echo," both of which gracefully drift and float in a way reminiscent of the Durutti Column or early His Name Is Alive albums like Home Is in Your Head. The deep longing present on that album and Livonia is also imbued in Return to Never's pieces, especially those that layer the foggy textures and luminous drones that make up its sonic extremes. The combination of radiant tones and what sounds like a motor sputtering in the distance on "My Thoughts are to Thee Drawn" is surprisingly poignant. On "From the Night Tape," the heavy drums and far-off guitars call to mind the appealing rawness of King of Sweet, one of the first times His Name Is Alive fans could hear their music outside of their polished 4AD release. As on All the Mirrors in the House, it remains striking just how young Defever was when he made these recordings, not just because they're so technically proficient, but because they're so emotive. Return to Never is another fascinating deep dive into an era of His Name Is Alive's music that's well worth exploring.