Artist: Crystal Antlers
Label: Touch & Go Records
Due Out: April 7th
Another one of the more highly anticipated debut albums of 2009 (along with Here We Go Magic) is Crystal Antlers' Tentacles. Bouncing around between psychadelia, punk and noise, among other elements, if you're into anything busy, loud and engaging, I can promise you that you will be pleased while listening. For those who may not know, the band made its name appealing to a wide range of rock fans on the Long Beach-Los Angeles music scene. Due to its broad scope, they quickly made themselves favorites in the local area from 2006-2008, when they released their first official recording, EP. Whether this is your first time listening, or they're old news, you'll be feeling this one within minutes.
The opener, "Painless Sleep" seems anything but. With the fast-paced organ pulsing through the instrumental track for the entirety of its two minutes and 16 seconds, the last thing you'll be thinking about is dozing off. From there, the album is off and running. The gruff, yet soaring vocals on every track, the second "Dust" included, avert the listeners' ears from the hotel room bear fight in the background. Seriously, that's pretty much what it sounds like. The entire album seems claustrophobic, but intentionally. There's tons of sound going on, all of it fighting in the background of the intense vocal stylings, wrecking the "hotel room" as it were (I'm trying here on the symbolism). Good or bad symbolism aside though, believe me, it works. The organ sounds duke it out with the psychadelic guitar riff from the onset of "Time Erased", starting and stopping constantly, and then seemingly collapsing, before bringing it all back together at the midpoint. You'll feel like you're spinning in a time warp by the end of it, or perhaps even witnessing the end of the world. Somehow, with the tunes going on behind you though, you're okay with it all.
Though nothing screams "radio-friendly" on the record, the closest thing they've got is "Andrew," which will almost undoubtedly be the favorite among listeners everywhere, and is the first single. Slowing down the 40 -minute sprint, "Vapor Trail" gives us a scenic look out into space. There's a lot going on in this instrumental piece, but all of it seems to function within the abyss of space, allowing the sounds to breathe a bit. Just as you get comfortable with that however, the title track, "Tentacles" jumps back in immediately with destruction in its wake. Once again, the band is fantastic at having their instrumentation duel with itself, creating a great aesthetic to pay attention to throughout the record. Most, if not all of the tracks seem aptly named for the mood or vision they set, and that trend continues with "Until the Sun Dies (Part 1)," a track that comes in low, and then erupts with about a minute to go- probably similar to what we'd see if the sun did, actually, die. Not to give you too much of a breather, it ends with less than five seconds of feedback, before hopping right back on it again.
"Memorized" (also aptly named), uses virtually the same exact backing part the entire time, with shouting vocals managing to break up the monotony, along with some injections of brass, which pop up in more prominence from this track on out. From there, "Glacier" slows it up a bit, plodding (at least by the record's standards), allowing the vocals to face-off directly with the organ, brass and psychadelic guitar part in the background. The result? A 90-second long seesaw until the track's final trumpet blare, which leads straight into another built-in break, the short and concise "Foot of the Mountain," which is largely trumpet-based. By this point, you're used to the breaks, so are not taken aback at all by the hostile nature of "Your Spears", but are probably fooled by how calm in comparison "Swollen Sky" comes off as. Trust me, they're only letting up so you can be ambushed by the last minute or so of this one. It all wraps up with the epic "Several Tongues," packed with synths and echoes, that space aesthetic I mentioned earlier is also embraced here, as you can't help but feel as if you're floating, surprisingly peacefully. Not to leave you in that mood, the band throws all of their instrumentation at you halfway through, literally punching you in the face and sending you on your way.
What made this album so great is its constructive use of noise, great technique and broad appeal. If anyone ever wants to get hit in the mouth, this is one of the albums you can accomplish that with, and still be able to hear yourself think afterwards. It's surprisingly pleasing when its over. Though just 40 minutes, you're content with that, and at ease with what you've heard- something seemingly tougher and tougher to do these days with music. From all accounts I've heard, these guys put on a sick live show, so if you're looking for good acts to go see, maybe add Crystal Antlers to your list. I know I will. And I know you're going to be hearing about them quite a bit in the future, so keep on the lookout. Similarities include, but are not limited to No Age, Bear vs. Shark and maybe a little Death From Above 1979.
Best Track: "Andrew" (mp3 courtesy of Stereogum)