Want to backpack through Europe without spending your life’s savings? Tired of typical punk rock bands and want to listen to something truly uniquely different? Ever heard of any of the following instruments: a txalaparta, a danbolin, and/or a txistu?
If you answered yes to any of the previous questions, then you should give new to the American scene, Basque-county folk, techno, punk, dub step, culture combining, British/Spanish band Crystal Fighters a listen. As if that wasn’t a mouthful enough, their music is unlike any other band from Spain, erm England, erm.. actually, either country.
With both Spanish and British roots, the band is able to mix various prevalent cultures within their sound. The UK punk rock sound under Spanish guitar provides a delightful European get away through your headphones. The lyrical content is based off of an unfinished opera that lead singer Laure Stockley’s grandfather wrote, and takes the listener on even more of an adventure as the songs tell of the galaxy, the beach, and the earth.
Their album Star of Love (released on April 24th in the US), opens with “Solar System” which brings the energy right from the get go. The entrancing beats laid over almost Japanese anime sounding “go’s” start the vibe that continues throughout the whole album. The conjoining of cultures is also noticeable with an underlying acoustic guitar fingerpicking softly, strangely but successfully complimenting the dub step groove. This guitar kicks off next track “Follow,” which features male lead singer Sebastian Pringle and both female singers, Stockley and Mimi Borelli. The up tempo instrumentals are dance inspiring, beckoning friends to follow.
“Xtatic Truth” starts with an airy harp-like picking which leads to a more complex whirling that resolves into keyboard techno that maintains the original beat. Pringle’s accent contributes to the backpack through Europe feel, first taking the tour through a coffee shop in say- Barcelona, then a dance club in London, and then to some kind of mashed up culture club where the main goal is to have fun and dance and not care about how many musical elements you’re mixing together. “I Do this Everyday” almost follows by bringing a jungle rock vibe, starting with hollow drums which sound like the members are banging on random objects and switches off with a heavy bass riff that sounds like it should be in a metal band. This song would no doubt be a highlight of Crystal Fighter’s live performance.
“Champion Sound” and first single “Earth Island” are softer songs on the album, but that doesn’t make them any less energetic. The songs seem to flow naturally and effortlessly as the band conveys a story through their waxing and waning vocals. “Island” paints a picture of a whole universe opening and flying through the galaxy with the sights and the emotions.
“Plage” (translated: beach) is a bit of a love song, eagerly asking a beautiful girl to go to the beach at “4 in the morning” to gaze into each other’s eyes and watch the sunset. Continuing the backpacking metaphor, it’s almost like an American girl meeting a beautiful European guy (does the country of origin really matter?) and falling in passionate lust on a romantic beach setting. This cinema-esque feeling could also be combined with the sun soaked “In the Summer,” which croons about throwing coins into a wishing well. (Maybe there are too many movies with the same plot.. alas, romance movies set in foreign countries are most always cheesy yet satisfying).
Next track “At Home” takes advantage of the full chorus and puts the txalaparta (or giant wooden, two person xylophone) to good use. It’s probably the most ordinary sounding song on the album, but that’s not a bad thing because it shows off the band’s natural talent and the quality tones of their voices without editing. Quite contrarily “I Love London” sounds like a catchy dance track out of Yo Gabba Gabba with the heavy use of auto tune, cowbell, and “Hola, me llamo Mimi.”
Pringle’s voice shines in the a cappella intro to “Swallow” before succumbing to a mixture of electro pop bass drops and delicate acoustic melodies, further proving the uniqueness of Crystal Fighter’s sound. And as if you needed more Spanish influence, bonus track “Fiesta” a cover of Golpes Bajos, crosses English with Spanish providing the best of both worlds and an enhanced vocabulary.
Closing track “With You” gives the galaxy and stars a sound with futuristic twinkles of synth
keyboard over gentle vocals singing of starlight and staring at the sky.
Overall, the alternating sounds demonstrate the many genres that Crystal Fighters is capable of. The mixture of instrumentals, vocals, storylines, and even band members make this band one that is unpredictable and fresh.
Personal Favorites/Recommendations: “Plage” and “At Home”
See Crystal Fighters on tour later this month
North American Tour 2012
5/21 – Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer
5/22 – Washington, DC @ Rock and Roll Hotel
5/23 – Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
5/24 – New York, NY @ Le Baron (DJ set)
5/25 – Montreal, QC @ Il Motore
5/26 – Toronto, ON @ Wrongbar
5/27 – Chicago, IL @ Empty Bottle
5/28 – Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry
5/31 – Vancouver, BC @ Fortune Sound Club
6/1 – Seattle, WA @ Neumos
6/2 – Portland, OR @ Wonder Ballroom
6/4 – San Francisco, CA @ The Independent
6/5 – Los Angeles, CA @ Echoplex
6/6 – San Diego, CA @ Porter’s Club