published: 7 /
Sacred Bone Records
Slowed-down but compelling third album from acclaimed Brooklyn-based post-punk band, Crystal Stilts
You know that Sonic Youth album cover..? You know, the black and white one, the one with two sunglassed beatniks and the bit about killing their parents. ‘Goo’, that’s right. Well, we now know what those two characters might be listening to while they ooze menace and ice cold cool...it’s track three, ‘Future Folklore’ on Crystal Stilts new LP ‘Nature Noir’.
Channeling late 60s Velvets (and solving album cover mysteries in the process) is just one of Crystal Stilts pastimes however. On this their third LP they’ve taken a bit of a left turn. To be fair, they’ve always had the indicator flashing, and after successfully bottling aural endorphins on their last effort via such brain swirling classics as ‘Shake the Shackles’ and ‘Silver Sun’ they probably felt ready to explore some of the side roads. So this time everything’s a bit, well, slower.
Second track ‘Star Crawl’ really sets the tone as slabs of echo’d guitar carve up the groove. It’s almost like they’ve just played the song in rehearsal and one of them says hey, why don’t we play it again at half speed? Singer Brad Hargett is, as usual, still positioned at the far end of a very deep chasm though on a few tracks like ‘Sticks and Stones’ and ‘Memory Room’ he’s actually singing. Quite sweetly. Guitarist JB Townsend meanwhile remains the master of the staccato’d psych strut, notably on the aforementioned Future Folklore, but there’s also any number of charming fluid signatures running through the record, often accompanied by a woozy string section.
And what’s the soundtrack to this venture down the back roads? There’s glimpses of early Floyd – at one point I was sure Syd Barrett was about to start singing "The black and green scarecrow that everyone knows" before darting back into a hedge. There’s Johnny Marr’s slow motion guitar from ‘How Soon Is Now’ re-imagined by JB on opener ‘Spirit in Front of Me’. There’s a few nods to ‘Waiting For The Sun’-era Doors. Above all there’s the impression of a band relaxing into themselves. There’s no stress on this record. Anywhere. If anything they’ve succeeded in making something quite romantic.
“The love between us is what sets us free,” sings Brad on ‘Memory Room’ “Forget about the afterlife, multiply the laughter.”
Whatever, like all your favourite bands Crystal Stilts take you on a journey and when they drop you back home you’re already looking forward to the next ride.
Spirit in Front of Me
Sticks and Stones
Worlds Gone Weird
Darken the Door