CD Review: "Tentacles" by Crystal Antlers
Artist: Crystal Antlers
Label: Touch and Go
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When a band receives a fair amount of publicity based on a handful of songs there are usually two ways to go: they can attempt to create an accessible album to satisfy a burgeoning audience, or they can withdraw and make more obscure music, challenging their new audience to follow them. Tentacles manages to accomplish the former on its first few songs, but Crytsal Antlers seems to give it all up on the second half of the album. The band is honing their style and taking even more chances than their EP did.
The album starts out with the instrumental track “Painless Sleep.” It’s a sign of what’s to come: a chaotic mix of drums from the band’s two drummers, manic organs, as well as guitars and bass that bleed all together in a messy, challenging sound. The more spins the album gets the better it sounds. “Dust” features some dramatic tempo swings from full rock mode to silence and back again. The guitar work by Andrew King is wild and creative, often going off on its own. Lead singer Johnny Bell sings in a muffled growl, and kills his throat with guttural screams. It sounds amazing on the album’s standout track “Andrew,” as Bell lends support for a friend going through troubled times: “Don’t try to fight through this space alone, I’ll try not to break.” The band is able to balance so many moods in the song, from despair to triumph to defiance. The band follows the brilliance of “Andrew” with “Vapor Trial,” a slowed psyche instrumental that allows the record to breathe. Crystal Antlers’ patience is improved over their self-titled 2008 EP with the instrumental tracks, which provide a nice balance to this album. The last part of the album meanders a little, and lacks the focus that makes the first few songs so immediate. At the halfway point of the seven-plus minute “Several Tongues” Bell sings “Love me again,” and it sounds like he’s floating in space.Â
- Review submitted by Jeff Bracco.