They’re a rather dour and gloomy bunch, Crystal Stilts. So naturally I was all set to love them. Take lashings of reverb-heavy, post-punk dream pop, mix with some neo-psychedelia and a hefty dose of retro rock ’n’ roll swagger, pack it all into ten three-minute-or-so pop songs and you have Nature Noir.
It’s clear who their influences are upon listening; just like Kasabian, they’re a copy of a copy of a copy, but (also like Kasabian) a good one at that. Their contemporaries would be the likes of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club; consequently you can hear the influence of Jesus and Mary Chain; so naturally there’s some Velvet Underground in there too. You get the idea.
Nature Noir opens with Spirit In Front Of Me, an echoey, slumberous noise-pop leviathan, drumbeats heavy as if weighted down with rocks. Singer Brad Hargett has a deep monotone voice, very much like Faris Badwan of The Horrors, which serves to add to the general gloom.
Next is Star Crawl, a definite album highlight, with its casual-but-studied rock’n’roll swagger and a feet-draggy rhythm which almost threatens to grind to a halt under its own lethargy (the lyrics of the chorus are a repetition of the words “I’m too tired baby oh-ohhh” – enough said).
Future Folklore picks up the pace with a faster tempo and foot-tapping rhythm, introducing a honky-tonk piano into the mix (and ticking all those retro boxes rock ‘n’ roll boxes at the same time). Things get a little more folksy in Sticks and Stones with an ethereal, pastoral tinge to the sound and the almost wide-eyed, earnest vocals (which are still ultimately gloomy nonetheless).
Other album highlights include Electrons Rising with its galloping drums and stormy reverb-heavy guitars. Then there’s the hook-laden title track Nature Noir with its gorgeous synths, and finally the super-amped up, echoey last track Phases Forever which introduces some folksy violins. This added folk element is where Nature Noir differs from the band’s previous recordings.
The dark, ponderous mood is sustained throughout but, if you like that sort of thing, you will absolutely love this album – it’s basically 45 minutes of ear candy for you. This is an unashamedly cool record. You definitely won’t see this band smiling in pictures.