Crystal Method by The Crystal Method
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Saturday, April 5th, 2014
by Arly Borges, Michael Mercer & Kevin Venable
Kevin & Michael:
Los Angeles: A seething darkness, grimey with discarded dreams of souls hiding behind its glittering, welcoming facade. The consummate actress, as much a chameleon as the talent it spins into the world on the silver screen. Hollywood Boulevard is the public face of this shifting city. Nightly, it pulsates with the rhythm and soul of electronic music seeping from doorways and windows, beckoning a constant stream of revelers: disappearing into the embrace of a dimly lit dance floor.
It's this legendary city, both it's glamorous appearance and the monstrous underbelly, that the new self-titled Crystal Method reminds us of during every listen. It pounds with reckless abandon, like an after-party following an epic night at the club. Sun's comin' up, everybody's awake and jumpin', and the rat race is as far from our consciousness as the mountains surrounding the City of Angels. This album is full of bangers for the get-up crowd. There's no room for the timid.
With track titles like "Metro" and "110 to the 101", the Los Angeles references are easy to pick up, but album truly nails the vibe of this vast city. There's an incessant rhythmic drive peppered with heavy layers of dirty synths and grooves thrusting through virtually every track. Yet floating atop the orchestrated madness there is a sense of hope, a dream. It seems to whisper "I know where you've been and where you want to go." It's familiar and refreshingly new each time the needle drops. There's a dichotomy that only a multi-faceted, ever-changing city or well conceived artform can express.
The Crystal Method harkens back to their Vegas LP and their club anthem "Busy Child", with meandering, slicing acid stabs, hard-hitting bass and hovering synths. That record went for the throat, the soul, and the dancefloor. The stylistic variation of the tracks on Vegas created an almost cinematic view of the underground dance scene at that time.
This time the band is saltier, they've been to the edge; played probably every major city on the planet, and Los Angeles became their muse for this LP. It sounds like they've harnessed all that energy, all those experiences, and chosen this album for their catharthis. It's party music for the disenfranchised. It's not soulless and homogenized, utilizing more machines than human effort, it's got soul - current commercial fodder producers take notice.
Also: If you dig this, or even of you don't, check out The Crystal Method's classic Vegas LP. There'll be songs you recognize because you've experienced them before (a movie, XM satellite radio) and if you dig those songs and consider their time, it makes The Crystal Method even sweeter. There's a method to their madness. It's the sound of now if you recognize our need to cut loose once in awhile. Sometimes you just gotta bang it, let it all go. Push play on this record and bump the system in your whip...
Now, our admiration of the record aside: Kevin's lived in Los Angeles for almost 10 years. That is the longest he's ever stayed in one place in his life, and in many ways it's what he calls home even if he wasn't raised there.
He had the privilege of meeting Scott Kirkland of The Crystal Method through a mutual friend on a few occasions, when they both went to see Elite Force (aka. Simon Shackleton) spin. Kevin thinks he's an intelligent and personable guy. When he was reading about the release of this album, he found out that he had brain surgery during the making of the record; which accounts for the length of time between releases. Both Scott and Ken Jordan have said this album is a rebirth of The Crystal Method: hence the self-titled release.And what a rebirth it is...
From the get go, "Emulator" gets the listener out of their chair and dancing. It's a futuristic and energetic track with drivy drums, a heavy bass-line, with keyboards sprinkled over the top for good measure. Designed to make you bob your head: if you love to grind on the dance floor you'll love "Emulator." All that's missing is the raver girls and glow sticks.
From there Kirkland and Jordan throw a curveball at the listener with "Over It". The song is a poppy work comprised of vocals from Dia Frampton mixed with the trademark break beats that's made The Crystal Method a household name. Jordan and Kirkland, along with Frampton's soulful voice pulls it off seamlessly.
Up next, "Sling The Decks" is a synth laden track littered with breakbeats, reminding the listener that Jordan and Kirkland haven't forgotten their roots. As good as "Sling The Decks" may be, it serves only as a warmup for what comes next. "Storm The Castle" is a collaborative effort between The Crystal Method and the electro dance project, Le Castle Vania, created by DJ Eiland. This track has an over the top, epic sound, mixing The Crystal Methods trademark signatue with Le Castle Vania's Euro-electro style. Overall, it's probably the most energetic track on the album. To hell with sitting back, mellowing out to music. The next time you want to invade a small evil empire; throw this little tune on, strap on your cyborg implants, and charge ahead at the dark ones. What can I say: the track makes me think of campy low budget sci-fi flicks.
From there the listener is guided through heavy electro tunes. "110 to the 101", "Jupiter Shift", and "Dosimeter" are standard Crystal Method fare, until hitting another vocal-infused track: "Grace" - featuring soulful vocals by LeAnn Rimes, is very much in the vein of "Over It". This time around The Crystal Method adds a bit more flavor by skipping the popp- like overtones and mixing in a bit of Rimes soulful vocals and funky beats. For those of you who've been living under a rock and may not know LeAnn Rimes: She's a well-known country singer. Thankfully, there's nothing in this song that sounds country. This song is a mish mash of styles that works, showing the listener Kirkland and Jordan aren't afraid of leaving their safe zone and taking a chance by experimenting.
As soulful as LeAnn Rimes voice may sound in "Grace", its nothing compared with the accomplishments of "Differences". "Differences" is one of the standout tracks of this album. It's also vocal-infused, featuring Franky Perez. It shows that experimentation between different genres, when executed correctly, can yield an exceptional song. This one has a very strong soulful feel, and Perez's vocals drives the song with Crystal Methods breaks taking a backseat. Overall, it's a treat to listen to, and I've put it in my favs playlist where I'm sure it will remain for some time.
From there the listener is treated to "Metro" followed by the closing song "After Hours". Another vocal infused song. The vocals on this one seem to have an early indie/punkish feel. I didn't like the last one much. Kevin thinks it's a taste of sleazy LA after-hours that's as close as you can get without living it. He loves it.
All together now...
This self-titled album, Crystal Method, is a wonderful mish mash of pop, dance, funk and soul in spades mixed with Kirkland's and Jordan's trademark style. It fulfills hardcore Crystal Method fans' desire for their traditional sound, while bringing different elements into the equation that should make the listener jump, dance and sing along to their favourite tracks. It also proves the members of The Crystal Method aren't afraid to experiment and step out of their comfort zone. And it was made for headphone listening by headphone listeners, having been mastered with Audeze LCD-3s from this millenium, and not through NS-10 shit bricks from ages past. Crystal Method is a must listen in our opinion; definitely give it a spin.
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