So noise is a really popular thing right now? I mean, it seems like even those that only somewhat add some fuzz or buzz to their sounds are being touted as the best thing since sliced bread (for an example, see any review on Wavves.) But what about those true musicians that are crafting some seriously good music because of it? What about those albums that are sprinkled and dashed with the right amount of ambience here, the right splash of calamity there or the loud, frenetic slamming over here?
Somewhere along the way, a not so little band (up to six members now) from Long Beach decided to pull out an amazing EP last year. With 2008’s justly titled EP, Crystal Antlers exploded onto the scene with six, intense, incredibly amazing songs. And now, a year later, they have returned with a much more varied, just as good and in many ways, better, successor to that EP, with their full-length debut, Tentacles. And yes, it’s this kind of album that deserves all of the praise it will surely garner because if this isn’t a tidal wave of gloriously noisy music, I don’t know what is.
Maybe that’s all too interminable but Tentacles is the kind of album that shouts and grips for your attention. “Until the Sun Dies (Part 1)” is a hazy, roaring three minutes of music that are just the right amount of pleasure for anyone. And this is rightfully followed by “Memorized” which centers Victor Rodriguez’ organ right in the middle of Jonny Bell’s shrieking vocals. At the end, the guitars unite to deliver a screeching amount of energy and tenacity. If this all sounds downright fantastic, it is.
The most possessively endearing aspect of it all, is how closely related everything is to their EP from last year. Although some of the longer compositions are replaced with more intuitive and in turn, catchier and melodic rock, the focus is still on the band’s experimentation with older sounds. Like the organ that recalls The Doors, the music channels psychedelic rock from the Grateful Dead to Led Zeppelin. But the band does everything masterfully, especially on the album’s closer, the epic “Several Tongues.” A blissed-out romp that goes on for seven minutes, Bell showcases his best true singing and the lush atmospherics around him serve a main purpose towards driving everything into a fiery hole. Drums are added, to chug away and chip at the sides, before horns and winds fly in to destroy everything else. It’s one of the best musical moments of the year, easily.
In between, you have the laid-back jams of “Andrew,” and the ambient doozies like the fittingly-titled, “Vapor Trail.” The musicianship is at another level with this band, forget the fact that the percussionists are creating some of the best patterns right now, those horns and dissonant keyboards on “Glacier” are outstanding. And to top everything off, it begins with the best 1-2 punch in years. “Painless Sleep” is a thrashing set of instrumental ecstasy. It beats away at a frenzied pace before it slows down and seamlessly transitions into “Dust” which, succinctly, will obliterate you. Damian Edwards’ percussion is hitting on all levels and the electric guitar bites and tears through every orifice. That transition, where six musicians are able to stop on a dime, is one of the hardest hitting howls on the entire album. Really, honestly, this is something special.
Crystal Antlers aren’t just a good band, but an excellent group of musicians and Tentacles is only the second chapter in what seems to be a storied book. This is the kind of album that will only reward as time passes; through more listens you will find that the startling music, sincere vocals and impeccable musicianship are all at a very high quality. And once it all ends, you’re left with such a salivating feeling. Sort of like if your head’s just been thrown into a car wash and you’ve felt every dizzying high and low in the most memorable way. But still, you want more of it because you know it’s an incredible high.