crystal stilts lp

Crystal Stilts – Nature Noir (Sacred Bones Records)

For this their third long player outing, Crystal Stilts have again travelled back in time across the Brooklyn Bridge in search of that lost chord once buried deep in the heart of Manhattan by The Velvet Underground. And they do manage to retrieve yet another facsimile of it, that bleak, primitive groove which has already served them so very well as the cornerstone of a melancholic, mournful sound in a career which now spans over more than a decade. Across this template of dissonance, reverb-drenched guitars, muffled rhythm and fuzz, the world-weariness of Brad Hargett’s dark spectral drone is really quite the perfect mouthpiece.

This Velvet Underground blueprint, a kind of subterranean design for life, has influenced so many people over the years. The journey through this particular past is one that has already been taken by amongst others The Jesus and Mary Chain, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and My Bloody Valentine and such are its infinite rewards it must be sorely tempting to just remain stuck in that groove for eternity.  But it is to Crystal Stilts’ credit on Nature Noir that they have added some colour to that hitherto monochrome spectrum. ‘Future Folklore’ has a positive spring in its step as the song skips jauntily along the beat-pop highway.  ‘Worlds Gone Weird’ invites another old friend in psychedelia to the party, whilst ‘Darken The Door’ somehow manages to coax Jim Morrison from that sorry plot in Père Lachaise cemetery and reunite him with the ghost of Ray Manzarek. ‘Electrons Rising’ bubbles with effervescence and charm and the guitar percolating through the melody of the album’s title track sounds positively cheerful.

There can be no denying that Crystal Stilts are indebted to a musical past enshrined in the best rock n roll traditions of abandon and alienation. But to that model of darkness and an overwhelming belief in the concept of the drop-out boogie they have begun to marry intonations of light, shade and surrealism. In so doing and as they sustain their career into a second decade, there is clearly much more to this band than just sheer despondency and idle imitation.

Rating: ★★★½☆

Nature Noir is released through Sacred Bones Records on 17th September 2013

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