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Crystal Stilts – Live Review (The Bristol Exchange, 27 November 2013)

The Stilts arrived in Bristol slap bang in the middle of an extensive European tour to support their recent album Nature Noir. The recently opened exchange was the perfect venue to accommodate the moody sounds of the New York four piece, not quite open long enough to have attained sticky floors and a background smell of punk rock body odour, but nonetheless The Exchange felt suitably grimy and rock n roll. After powerfully bearded support act An Axe who bashed out a tight set of scuzzy, growly guitar rock with borderline surf guitars followed the slightly more restrained, Proper Ornaments, whose clever intertwining guitar work unfortunately drowned out the groups hushed, mumbled vocals.

The Crystal Stilts’ arrival on stage was heralded by the drone of organs and deeply reverbed bass guitar, hyper real images of shorelines at sunset and beautiful countryside projected on and behind the band in psychedelic colours. The drone built and they crashed into the opener, Spirit in Front of Me, whose woozy stomp got the audience members’ feet tapping and heads nodding. This momentum was kept up with rollicking Future Folklore,with singer Brad Hargett cooing “Back to the underworld, back to the sea, back to the garden, just you and me” and sounding as if Iggy Pop fronted the Velvet Underground. When heard live inevitably Hargett’s voice did not have quite the domineering presence it does on record but it still had power and with layers of reverb and echo the lyrics and message still came across clearly.

The band are incredibly slick live due to years of playing together. Drummer Keegan Cooke stole the show with his tight, thundering and precise rhythms. This sound propelled along new track Sticks and Stones and previous release, Star Crawl; featuring great guitar work from JB Townsend and sounding as good as anything the Stilts have done before. Worlds Gone Weird was another highlight; Hargett singing that he’s been “…walking forever, stretching the tether” with his eyes tightly shut swaying in front of the microphone, sometimes grabbing hold as if for support. In keeping with the bands trippy sound, Hargett spent most of the evening in this trance, leaving front man banter duties to keyboardist Kyle Forrester who, after informing us that they were close to breaking the curfew, joked that they wouldn’t want to upset all the neighbouring late night massage parlours. Forrester’s keyboards were excellent throughout, evoking the classic sound of the doors’ Ray Manzarek. Though Hargett’s more introverted approach to stage craft worked well, you did at times wish he’d show some animation in keeping with the cymbal crashes and numerous guitar flourishes. The band were only half way offstage before the hardcore Crystal Stilts fan club were yelling and encouraging them back on for one more prowling, sinister number. Then after that they were off, taking the muggy groove to the rest of Europe.

By Josh Bennett

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Crystal Stilts Celebrate Their UK Tour With Free Download

Following the release of their fluid and cathartic new album Nature Noir, New Yorkers Crystal Stilts returned to the UK for a string of live shows this week.

To celebrate, they’re giving away one of Nature Noir’s more dreamy and wistful moments, track Sticks and Stones.

Crystal Stilts formed in 2003 in New York City and is Brad Hargett (vocals) and JB Townsend (guitar). They are currently joined by Andy Adler (bass), Keegan Cooke (drums) and Kyle Forester (keys).

You can catch Crystal Stilts live on the final two dates of their UK tour:
27 Nov – The Exchange, Bristol
28 Nov – Cargo, London

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Crystal Stilts Start Winter Tour

Crystal Stilts released their newest album Nature Noir in September. Now the New York psychedelic rockers have kick started their winter tour.

You can catch them live on the following dates:
21-Nov – King Georg, Cologne
22-Nov – De Kreun, Kortrijk
23-Nov – Green Door Store, Brighton
24-Nov – Liverpool Psychfest party, Liverpool
25-Nov – Mono, Glasgow
26-Nov – Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
27-Nov – The Exchange, Bristol
28-Nov – Cargo, London
29-Nov – Maison De Musiques, Brussels
30-Nov – Le Guess Who? Festival, Utrecht
01-Dec – Point FMR, Paris
02-Dec – El Lokal, Zurich (CH)
03-Dec – Amalgame, Yverdon-Les-Bains (CH)

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Crystal Stilts – Nature Noir Album Review

It’s been two years since we last heard from Brooklyn’s Crystal Stilts with 2011’s two solid releases, In Love With Oblivion and The Radiant Door EP but Nature Noir has been worth the wait. This record shows a band sticking with their distinct sound while adding new tricks, styles and production to make a slicker and tighter version of their earlier records.

Nature Noir kicks off with the slow woozy jam, Spirit in Front Of Me, sticking with the 60s psychedelic sound Crystal Stilts are so fond of. The fuzzy guitars and Doors influenced keyboard organs roll along with Brad Hargett’s vocals. Hargett sounds like a bored Jim Morrison singing to you from the back of a cave and his echoed croon continues into Star crawl; a great track with the intertwining bass and snappy guitars combining brilliantly to pick the albums pace up. Hargett sings, “We found a place to be free/And left all the religion…But I’m too tired baby” while a gorgeous lead guitar line from JB Townsend comes in half way through to underscore the tracks jive perfectly.

Crystal Stilts Nature Noir

Crystal Stilts artwork for Nature Noir

The momentum of Nature Noir continues on the recently revealed rhythmic Future Folklore which wouldn’t sound out of place on a classic Velvet Underground record with its gently stomping bass and drums. Future Folklore is only bettered by Sticks and Stones which struts from the moody murk of the first three tracks to show off a new dimension to the Stilts’ sound. Gone is the shoddy reverb that usually covers Hargett’s vocals. On Sticks and Stones Hargett is allowed to croon softly and sweetly about, “Beautiful kids that are made to go astray”. At only just over two minutes long and with its simple, snappy premise, it’s the most accessible Crystal Stilts have sounded and, along with Star Crawl, the closest they’ve come to creating a catchy hit single.

Nature Noir then dips slightly with the gloomy swamp of Memory Room that none the less features some nice production techniques with weeping strings adding to the sadness of a song that asks you to, “Forget about the afterlife”.

Things pick up again with the excellent, World’s Gone Weird. Again sounding like the new, improved and tighter Crystal Stilts, the echo is back on Hargett’s smooth vocals which compliment Sterling Morrison strummed 60’s guitars and psychedelic breakdowns perfectly. The next track, Darken the Door, is a nice slice of garage pop that keeps it short and snappy before trailing off into a minute of strange instrumental noises that move you perfectly into Electrons Risings’ rambling jam.

Fans of the bands old five minute long psych freak-outs will have to make do as they are significantly lacking on this record. The title track, Nature Noir, crawls along oh so mellow with the “Oh we just rustled this one up the other afternoon in the basement” vibe the Stilts are so good at. Hargett sounds so relaxed on the title track that you can imagine him recording his vocals while lying on the floor.

Phases Forever is a bit of a damp ending but does feature a lovely understated string section which gives the record a sombre yet grandiose finish. Ultimately the second half of Nature Noir is not as strong as its first six tracks but it’s those tunes alone that will be enough to bring you back to the album for repeated listens. Repeated listens which will undoubtedly help you unearth some hidden gems among the more slower, sombre efforts towards the end. Numerous groups have traded off the late 60’s psychedelic sound over the years but there are few around at the moment who do it as well or with such charisma as the Crystal Stilts. It’s good to have them back and expect these songs to feature on all your autumnal, nostalgia laden playlists.

By Josh Bennett



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Crystal Stilts’ New Album Nature Noir Out In September

Crystal Stilts are pleased to announce their new album Nature Noir will be released on September 16 on Sacred Bones Records. Along with this news comes a new track Star Crawl and a November UK tour.

Nature Noir sees The Stilts honing in on their various affinities at once. Simulcast from different pools of the past, bridging and expanding their intensive tastes in Soul, Folk, Psych, Country, Proto-punk and onward, it’s apparent that their new formulary is more subtle and fully realised than ever.

Crystal Stilts Nature Noir

Crystal Stilts artwork for Nature Noir

Like any creation worth loving, it’s the quality of the ingredients and the unique perspective lenses of the creators that produce a marvel such as this.  Pleasingly distilled in celestial darkness, floating in a sea of color drenched dreams, and grounded in protean mythology, Crystal Stilts’ third LP sounds refreshingly bold and deep rooted within the current musical climate.

With lyrical themes probing the dark connections between the individual and its environment, along with the shadowy interdependence of nature and man, the album strikes a more emotional chord than records past. Where Alight of Night and In Love With Oblivion reveled in a place of spaced-out awe, Nature Noir reaches forth with a very human yearning.  Unmasked, refined and lush, Crystal Stilts here hint at freeform experimentation whilst holding on to their classic heritage. Retro fitted and forward committed, this is a record whose presence should be welcomed in your collection.

Crystal Stilts formed in 2003 in New York City by Brad Hargett (vocals) and JB Townsend (guitar) and are currently joined by Andy Adler (bass), Keegan Cooke (drums), Kyle Forester (keys)

You can catch Crystal Stilts live on the following dates:
13 Nov – Vera, Groningen
14 Nov – Stengade, Copenhagen
15 Nov – Debaser, Stockholm
16 Nov – Revolver, Oslo
17 Nov – Pustervik, Goteborg
18 Nov – Voxhall, Aarhus
19 Nov – Hafenklang, Hamburg
20 Nov – Festsaal Kreuzberg, Berlin
21 Nov – King Georg, Cologne
22 Nov – De Kreun, Kortrijk
23 Nov – Green Door Store, Brighton
24 Nov – Liverpool Psychfest party, Liverpool
25 Nov – Mono, Glasgow
26 Nov – Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
27 Nov – The Exchange, Bristol
28 Nov – Cargo, London
29 Nov – Maison De Musiques, Brussels
30 Nov – Le Guess Who? Festival, Utrecht
01 Dec – Point FMR, Paris
02 Dec – El Lokal, Zurich (CH)
03 Dec – Amalgame, Yverdon-Les-Bains (CH)

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