The Crystal Ark, ‘The Crystal Ark’ – Album Review
There's a good chance you already love one-half of the twin creative force behind the Crystal Ark. Gavin Russom was a member of a little band called LCD Soundsystem, which popularized a particular Nu-Disco-meets-New Order sound endemic to New York-based boutique label DFA. As you may know, LCD has split up. Russom, accordingly, has found a new creative partner, telenovela director and artist Viva Ruiz. The result might be the best dance-pop album of the year.
DFA bands are known for making dance music that is freed from the DJ's turntables. Music of this kind, as YACHT will tell you, is known to cause percolating, undulating trances. Russum, who experienced a deepening of his spirituality while composing the album in New York and Berlin, says much the same for the Crystal Ark, once describing a show by the band as:
Total immersion, permanent revolution, coloursex, funk rally, three-legged sock hop, ancestor worship, tantric empowerment workshop, feminist revival tent, inner archaeology, firewalk…
That esoteric, kaleidoscopic passage describes the album in a nutshell. This is a hypnotic, shake-your-butt-til-you-lose-your-mind kind of album, equally suited to headphones or tower speakers. There's a great fluidity to the sound, what with those casual switches between English and Spanish making a stress-melting medley of organic and electronic (gotta love the mixture of traditional Latin American drums with New York boom-bip) that's heard most clearly on 'Morir Soñando.'
Rossum has made a healthy career has an experimental DJ -- he's reputed for his recordings as Black Meteoric Star -- and as such, long compositions are not out of the ordinary for him. It's amazing what happens when an exploratory wizard embraces the up-all-night abandon of Latin American dance, and here, it's most profound on the nine-minutes-plus fire of 'Crossing.' Ruiz's underwater pitch-shifted vocals shimmy over driving claptraps until they're finally joined by a swell of glittering synths. And then the horns come in. It's worth an album purchase in and of itself.
The range that the Ark covers in just eight songs is astounding. Another highlight includes the Fleetwood Mac-influenced 'Rhodes.' (They were on that Fleetwood tribute like everyone else.) The lyrics get trippy, as Rossum creepily croons, "Let me rise from the stone and dust / Who said that I'd hurt you, my hair the color of rust." It's a long, groovy jam, the kind of music you'd hope to hear on the wind-down after a big night out.
The album closes with another epic, 'Silver Chord,' the most driving and electronic of the tracks assembled. There's an early-'80s urgency here, the influences of New Order and Depeche Mode readily apparent. The singers beg you to "rise up, stand up, I want you to come through." It's a lusty, hypnotic closer, one that erupts into Ruiz's euphoric rrrraaise them hiiiiiiiigh! as the synths pound behind to climax and then collapse into the sounds of birds chirping. "Tantric empowerment workshop" is right.