Crystal Stilts – Radiant Door

January 01, 1970

(Sacred Bones)


Crystal Stilts has always worked in a glamorous murk,
submerging spectral melodies in pools of reverb, shrouding strident post-punk
rhythms in a penumbra of distortion. Their debut, Alight of Night, threaded hopelessly romantic hooks through a
dungeon cavern of echo, the doomy miasma as much a part of the sound as the
tunes themselves. Yet here, on this five-song EP, the band reaches for a
measure of clarity. Perhaps it’s the assistance of Gary Olson, he of the
super-clean, super-clear Ladybug Transistor; perhaps there’s more money for
production; or perhaps the band just feels that their music has matured enough
to bear closer scrutiny. In any case, Radiant
is sharper and more focused than any Crystal Stilts recording to date.
The hand-claps (yes, hand-claps) on opener “Dark Eyes” practically leap out of
the mix, and the guitar strums that keep time with them are only a hair less
startling. Yes, there’s a fair bit of organ drone for blurry continuity and
Brad Hargett is still singing as if from the bottom of a well, but this is a
brighter, more lucid Crystal Stilts than before.


“Dark Eyes” is the best of the EP’s three originals,
followed closely by the chiming, janging Fresh & Onlys-ish title track and
somewhat more distantly by slow-moving, organ droning, atmospheric (but
slightly dull) “Frost Inside the Asylums.” It’s worth noting that this closing
track sounds a bit more like post-punk romantics the Blue Orchids than the
actual Blue Orchids cover on the disc, “Low Profile.” The Stilts’ version,
sadly, fails to match the wavery, fey grace of the original, but, hey, let’s
award points for even knowing about this little-referenced Fall offshoot.


The second cover, a surf-toned, Spector-booming take on Lee
Hazlewood’s “Still of the Night” is the EP’s best track. Here the guitar line
is sharp enough to cut glass, the canyon-wide reverb just the thing to set off
hollow-eyed heartbreak. There’s still plenty of glamor and atmosphere in the
Crystal Stilts’ aura, but with this EP a significantly clearer sense of
structure and purpose. 


As the Night” “Dark Eyes” JENNIFER

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