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Music Review: Crystal Stilts – In Love with Oblivion

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Crystal Stilts’ “flower power” music would have played well at The Fillmore in San Francisco during the ’60s. Most striking about them are their vocals, which seem to float miles above the music. While trippy, they don’t always keep a strong tether to the songs.

Crystal Stilts consists of vocalist Brad Hargett, guitarist J.B Townsend, keyboardist Kyle Forester, bassist Andy Adler and drummer Keegan Cooke. Playing Vietnam-era rock, a guitar joyfully chimes on “Silver Sun” then switches to crunchy riffing on “Blood Barons.” Hammond organ hums over most of the album, like on”Flying into the Sun.” However, a couple of tracks pound out some boogie-woogie piano, too. The bass takes on a bigger role, helping play lead rhythms, like on “Shake the Shackles,” where guitarist Townsend splashes on some reverbed notes. Though simple, Cooke’s drumming pushes along the atmospheric music.

The music overall contains a strange moodiness. Almost intolerable low tones on “Sycamore Tree” surround your head like a blanket. Time creeps slowly on the droning “Alien Rivers” with its repetitious guitar lick and UFO-landing sounds.

The wind-tunnel qualities of Oblivion’s vocals seem a bit gimmicky, though. Hargett sounds so vaporous, in fact, he clouds up the lyrics and music. Ghostliness may fit his obscure, often psychedelic lyrics. But saving the truly unearthly tones for songs like “Alien Rivers” would make his singing less distracting.

I don’t get the obsession with lo-fi sound on this record. Halfway through, it becomes its least fascinating aspect. Hargett sounds like Jim Morrison albeit sleepier and on Zoloft. And his lyrics leave you reaching for a dictionary too often. On the other hand, the words don’t deserve to be hidden under a haze. On “Silver Sun,” Hargett laments, “I lost my maiden when snow came on / I just could not keep her from loving the silver sun / Her figure disappeared in white, dissolved into the light.” That’s much more interesting than twisting dials on an effect box. It’ll be interesting to see if Crystal Stilts can be more than just about the echo.

Grade:

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