Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Crystal Stilts - Alight of Night

For: The Line Of Best Fit

MP3: Crystal Stilts

Shoegaze has been going through something of a renaissance of late. With the return of My Bloody Valentine, and the genre-reinventing success of bands like Deerhunter, M83 and Maps, suddenly the reverb-with-everything sound is rife once more. Stylized bone-pickers like Ariel Pink and John Maus are creating amazing echo drenched alternate universe retro-futurist pop, and Bradford Cox is certainly pushing the envelope with his "nu-gaze" (i know, I know) solo project Atlas Sound. It doesn't add up to a genuine musical movement, but Crystal Stilts are part of a periodic realignment in the zeitgeist, resulting in a new exploration of a familiar landscape.

But despite all the elaborations and broadening out of their counterparts, Crystal Stilts stick firmly to the straight and narrow. Their backward looking debut album, Alight of Night, sounds like music beamed directly out of the past.

The vocals are unapologetically doleful, and the sound is full to the point of clutter and enveloping to the point of smothering. Sometimes they sound like The Jesus & Mary Chain with the buzzsaw edge taken away, sometimes like Suicide without the thread of teetering psychosis, sometimes like a high school prom band in a drunk dream, via Joe Meek. Sometimes they sound like Joy Division on a television with a bad signal, white noise overlaid and vocals distant.

Which doesn't sound all bad, right? And that's because it's not. It's alternately engrossing and alienating - a stylistic win wrapped in a musical fail. Live, they shake off the malaise that chokes Alight of Night, delivering the songs with laconic effortlessness. But here on record it's turgid, and while it might sound like the past, it sure won't go down in the history books.

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