Crystal Antlers – ‘Two-Way Mirror’

(album, Recreation Ltd)

Long Beach combo Crystal Antlers second album sees the group re-emerge from a period of creative development as something of a chimera. There’s a form of structured disarray extant here that, on the one hand, establishes the eleven songs (with the possible exception of the more orthodox closer ‘Dog Days’) as a consistent corpus, while a combination of sudden lurches into irregular time signatures, and a tumbling rhythmic quality impart a sense of individual songs teetering on the verge of implosion.

The diverse range of influences that the band have brought to bear across Two-Way Mirror has an equally bi-polar effect ensuring that much of the material on display sounds, at times, a little like something else, and yet like nothing else. The band’s sonic template is established with opening track ‘Julie’s Story’, which fires staccato bursts of fractured sound across a coruscating nightmare backing. Similarly, discordant elements prevent most of the album settling into any sort of melodic comfort zone – the churning, melancholic ‘Séance’ and the insistent organ-infused ‘Always Afraid’ in particular. Similarly, there’s a lot of serrated sound drifting across the sonic miasma; ‘Summer Solstice’ takes a steak knife to its subdued anthemic qualities, rendering it counter-intuitively both expansive and claustrophobic, and the suitably uneven ‘By The Sawmill’ uses similar aural tropes to frame a backwoods melodrama that becomes disorientated amid its own bucolic instrumental hinterland.

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Two-Way Mirror’s urgent and unsettling title track provides the album’s high-point, sounding at times a little like an indie interpretation of Arthur Lee’s canon, largely on account of Cora Foxx’s fever dream organ contribution. After the sub-My Bloody Valentine processed sound etherea of ‘Way Out’, this subtle garage motif is extended by the rambling ‘Fortune Telling’, which develops a type of leaden stridency as it progresses.

‘Knee Deep’ is perhaps Two-Way Mirror’s most frustrating element, as it evokes a genuinely affecting sense of Barrett-esque psychedelic dislocation and then sets about undermining it with some over-emotive vocals and a guitar solo that appears to have arrived on loan from Big Country. ‘Sun Bleached’, a lo-fi, effects laden elegy, leads us to the terminus of the aforementioned ‘Dog Days’, which sees the band assaulting their own anthemic, hooky rock conformity with unexpected time changes, before Carlos Santana apparently wanders in to deliver a guitar solo.

Two-Way Mirror is arguably best viewed as a single stir of a melting pot that would have benefitted from a little less restraint. Ideally, the Antlers will go on to take the more extreme elements of what remains a nascent sound and develop it into something truly remarkable.

Originally posted 2011-07-17 20:49:59. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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