Crystal Stilts - Alight of Night

Reverb-drenched vocals buried under chugging, hazy guitars - it would be easy to convince someone this is a long-lost collection of songs from the mid-80s, scraped from a muddy set of eight-tracks using a worn-out Doc Marten boot. But no - New York's Crystal Stilts' debut is as fresh as the proverbial, albeit a long five years in the making.

There's no getting past the fact this is a defiantly lo-fi recording but there's a clear effort to echo Phil Spector with the production, although you'd be hard pressed to mistake the dulcet tones of Brad Hargett for the silky-smooth stylings of Veronica Bennett. His vocals are flat, rendered muddy and low in the mix, but far from expressionless and a perfect contrast to the band's crystal-clear melodies, allowed to envelope them to delicious effect. Grimy gems abound on this debut, from Departure's motorik beat effectively coupled to Eastern-sounding instrumentation and The Dazzled with its elastic bassline reminiscent of Iggy Pop's strung-out classic The Passenger, to the eponymous second track which manages to capture the spirit of The Velvets at their most playful, with everything from booty-shaking tambourine to what sounds suspiciously like a zither thrown into the mix.

Crystal Stilts is an album imbued with a diseased kind of glamour, there's something ugly and romantic on the outskirts of the sound, something not quite tangible - it's the aural equivalent of a bunch of flowers laced with dirty syringes. There's the nagging feeling that if you drifted off with it still spinning on the turntable you'd sink through the sofa and awake in some cosmic derelict with a beautiful stranger.



out of 10

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