Crystal Antlers, Nothing Is Real
Learning how much harder they can hit with a little restraint
On their superb new full-length, the Long Beach, California, outfit Crystal Antlers cement their place atop the psych-tinged, garage-pop heap and also flash some uncommon dynamic finesse. Credit for that goes to a new, economical lineup consisting of vocalist/bassist Jonny Bell, guitarist Andrew King and drummer Kevin Stuart; this pared-down configuration both streamlines and loosens up Crystal Antlers’ approach to murky psychedelia (“Don’t Think Of The Stone”), inky shoegaze (“Wrong Side”) and puncture-wound indie barbs (the distortion-spackled, Pixies-like “Anywhere But Here”).
Still, Nothing Is Real is anything but simple: Its dense arrangements cushion surprising elements like the sinister organ beneath the punky anthem “Rattlesnake” and the Sonic Youth-esque post-rock sprawl “We All Gotta Die.” And they have learned the value of negative space: “Pray,” with its thundering drums, frantic head-cold vocals and wildfire guitar solo, is explosive simply because of the periods of tension-filled silence that mark them off. The Antlers have learned how much harder they can hit with a little restraint.