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(43:53, 12 Apostles Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Sunhoney 3:07 2. There Is a Field 6:06 3. Landscape 6:23 4. Orffyreus' Wheel 3:25 5. Hallucinating Angel 7:50 6. I Am with You Always 5:05 7. Several Kinds of Darkness 5:41 8. Not All Those That Wander Are Lost 2:52 9. Hummingbird 3:24 LINEUP: Unknown (by choice of artist)
Prolusion. THE CRYSTAL SUN is a band based in the UK. The initiators of this production prefer to be nameless and unknown, as it is stated on their homepage: "The members of the Crystal Sun collective seek no individual attention or adulation. They realize that they are merely cogs in the greater machine." According to the press release by the record company, they don't even know who's behind this project: they received a finished master tape in the mail, apparently from an anonymous source. It had been recommended they sign the band previously though, and they had even tried to get them signed, but as no reply came from the band and they didn't have any means to contact them directly, the record company believed the band to be dissolved by the time they got the master tape for this album.
Analysis. The background story for this creation is a colorful one. Whether it is true or merely an image the band likes to put forward isn't known of course, but it is with some gratification. I can say that in this case this isn't a case of average musical fare a record company or band tries to enrich and enliven by utilizing a tantalizing image to strengthen the impact of the artist per se. Instead we're dealing with a somewhat innovative product, looking back in time to the late '60s psychedelic scene and the early '70s “krautrock” movement for musical inspirations, with the addition of contemporary sounding elements and a high class production to create a modern psychedelic album with enough textures and nuances to be appealing to followers of the material produced back when these were new and truly innovative musical explorations. Those who enjoy productions showcasing technical virtuosity and complex arrangements will not find much of interest here; instead this is a venture out into the realms of repetitive themes and droning instruments, with careful changes and additions the chosen tools rather than the abrupt, dramatic changeovers prevalent in many kinds of modern progressive music. With one exception, the organ is the dominating instrument on this release, and in most cases the band opts for the use of a church organ rather than the Hammond. This gives the songs sacral and almost religious sounding atmospheres and in some cases it does sound like parts of the songs have been recorded in a church. If this is the case or if it's a planned effect is unknown though, as the artist in question is less than informative on all matters concerning this creation. Adding to the rich textures provided by the organ, the guitar is utilized in a manner of ways throughout on this album. Wandering acoustic themes, melodic undistorted electric guitar licks and atmospheric guitar soloing (often fragmented with strong psychedelic tinges, placed in the back of the mix) add harmonic textures and nuances to the compositions. To contrast with this, as well as to add distorted, dark and twisted elements to the individual songs, distorted and staccato riff patterns and echoing fragmented guitar sounds are used to great effect, adding elements many listeners will associate with the works of acts like Amon Duul II and their contemporaries. Floating synth layers add additional nuances on occasion; the same goes for the selected use of flute, violin and, if my ears didn't deceive me too much, trumpet, cello and saxophone. On three of the compositions, spoken word passages by way of a distorted voice take a central place in the tune. The lyrics are poetic and allegorical, poems read on a musical background for the passages of the songs in question. Bass and drums provide a more contemporary sounding element to the sonic explorations, with the bass guitar in particular serving driving, melodic themes throughout, often with a slight contrast or dissonance to the main melodic themes, adding energy as well as a psychedelic mood to the individual tunes.
Conclusion. The Crystal Sun has created a compelling and rather intriguing debut album that should appeal to those who enjoy vintage psychedelic rock and “krautrock”. Utilizing energetic, driving bass guitar on quite a few occasions, the compositions have a drive to them that should be an appealing aspect also to followers of contemporary acts exploring similar musical territories. This is a strong debut by a talented act and one that we'll hopefully get to hear more of in the future.
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