Friday, 5 December 2008

Albums of the Year - Part 2

Crystal Stilts – Alight of Night
For Crystal Stilts, nuance is key. From New York and expressing an obvious kinship with 80s Manchester, they sound for all the world as if they’ve never stepped outside of their own. Theirs is a sonic enclave informed by the acerbic chill of first and second wave post punk, alongside the monochrome intensity of Joy Division, Felt and Josef K. Hardly irregular touchstones admittedly, but on Alight of Night Crystal Stilts display a rare aptitude for refinement and subtlety that suggests a distinctive re-imagining of a previously well-trodden path.

Not simply well-studied appropriation, Crystal Stilts are an immaculately conceived entity, generating an aesthetic filtered through prisms of fractured glass to reveal the sparsest shades of primary colour. As with the post-punk austerity they’re clearly inspired by, it’s the shading that defines them, the minimal shards of light powerful in their economic elegance.

Eponymous opener “Crystal Stilts” is a perfect case in point; all black and white B movie intensity, until (twice) revealing a brief keyboard driven coda that shimmies with a rockabilly abandon. It’s an exercise in understatement typical of a band that clearly understands the distinction between formula and continuity. Take for example the swooning and loping “Prismatic Room” and “The City In The Sea”. While displaying the band’s more soporific leanings, they’re quite obviously the lovelorn cousins of their more kinetic, but never bombastic, counterparts.

Puritanical in its execution, Alight of Night showcases a vision as clear as its creator’s namesakes. Forget the egalitarian realism of much current indie; I want my stars not of this world. In forming their own beautifully nuanced aesthetic, Crystal Stilts understand the form and function of rock mythology and in Alight Is Night, have created a compelling document of why we should value them as such.

POSTSCRIPT: Slumberland really is a wonderful label. You could do a lot worse than invest in their most recent releases (I strongly recommend both Bricolage and Sexy Kids). It's also worth investigating their history too, for it's one that's clearly tied to the development of a particular type of indiepop music.

Crystal Stilts - "The City In The Sea"

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