En omtåget gåtur i kamæleonske farveskift – interview med Crystal Stilts

Feature November 12 2013 Stilts_5

Af Andreas Melchior

New York-kvintetten Crystal Stilts, der gæster Danmark i midten af november, er aktuel med sin tredje LP, den formidable Nature Noir. Crystal Stilts er som udgangspunkt stadig garagerockende postpunk, indhyllet i katedralsk rumklang og et vibrerende håndtryk fra midt-60’ernes rhythm & blues, men har på dette album lejlighedsvist lettet en anelse af trykket på reverb-pedalen.

Forsanger Brad Hargett er kendt for sin afgrundsdybe vokal, som her, frarøvet rumklangens betryggende lag, fremstår skiftevis resigneret og trodsig. JB Townsends diskante op-ned-op-anslag på guitaren, får, sammen med enkle orgelflader, klimprende Nicky Hopkins-piano, egenrådige basmønstre og accentuerede trommer, fortsat ørerne til at skælve. Nature Noir sammensætter ruinerne fra de tidligere udgivelsers massive mur af lyd til nye, foranderlige konstruktioner. Vi tog en snak med bandet om det nye album.

You’ve changed your sound a bit on this record. Less effects on the instruments which makes the actual playing stand out more. It might be a cliché but it makes your sound seem a bit more vulnerable and earthy. Was this a conscious choice, or did it just sort of happen?

Kyle Forester (keyboard): I like your adjectives. I would not say that there was a conscious decision to use less of any particular effects, although maybe there were just some more songs that called for less of some of the effects that were called for more of on the previous records.

JB: I think there’s quite a bit of effects on this record but they’re more carefully applied as opposed to big blankets of plate reverbs that are on the other two.

“Nature Noir” is a very coherent and concise album. How was the writing and recording process compared to your previous releases?

Kyle: Yeah, this one was definitely more of a stream-lined process. All the basic tracking was done in one place in one 10 day period, so that probably helps. The writing was done over a pretty long period, going back to the last album, but I think in the end we ended up using more of the songs we had written more recently. It’s like how mothers love their younger children more than their older ones.


There are some intriguing and quite beautiful string arrangements on some of the songs. How did that come about?

Kyle: Well, thanks, glad you like them. There’s strings on so many of the records, especially 60’s/70’s records, that we like, so from the beginning of talking about this album, we wanted to do strings on it. We didn’t exactly have the budget for a symphony, but we got a couple of crack players in, a violinist and a cellist, and just had them overdub on top of themselves to get more of an ensemble sound. We were going for a simple mono type string sound, so the parts didn’t have to be too complex or rich.

There has always been a kind of dark and eerie, maybe even romantic tinge to your music. On the new record it especially shines through on songs like “Star Crawl” and the beautiful “Sticks and Stones”. A sort of distanced longing, perhaps. What are you yearning for?

Kyle: I yearn for nothing, can’t speak for the others. Brad?

Brad : I’d venture that I’m yearning for a time when meaning was built into the infrastructure of society and communities viewed themselves as a functioning piece within the greater cosmic whole. But anyone’s guess, and anyone’s longing, is as good as mine.

Crystal Stilts has – with some line-up changes – been around for almost a decade. In recent years it seems like “alternative” music has become the mainstream, it is used in various commercials, and there’s this rather tiresome “Brooklyn-hipster” concept that’s constantly being thrown around. How do you view yourself in today’s music scene?

Kyle: It’s funny, we were just talking about it, suddenly with this album people are talking about us as a real veteran band, feels like just yesterday we were a new band. Anyway, I don’t think we’ve ever felt a part of a distinct scene, other than our friends and friends’ bands, which I suppose is the same thing. Keegan is into the “Brooklyn-hipster” thing because he likes getting his hair cut by guys wearing suspenders.

JB: Well yeah, the first 4 years we were more of a studio, under the underground band. Until our first LP came out in ’08 we were in a more incubatory, inward stages of our life.

Crystal Stilts har malet sig en kende ud af sit musikalske formørkede hjørne. Rent grafisk kan udviklingen måske anes i bevægelsen fra det sorttonede omslag til albumforgængeren In Love with Oblivion til det mørkerøde bladtæppe, der præger Nature Noir. På “Memory Room” og “Phases Forever” spøger akustiske guitarer og delikate strygerarrangementer. Den speedede “Future Folklore” forfølges af komprimerede brudstykker af en frenetisk guitarsolo, mens de forsinkede riff på “Star Crawl” kunne være et snurrende båndekko af Syd Barretts “Octupus”.

Videoen, der ledsager “Star Crawl”, kan betragtes som en illustrativ fremstilling af Nature Noir: En omtåget gåtur i kamæleonske farveskift, som ender med, at bandet forsøger at få keyboardist Kyle Forrester til at levitere (Kyle: “We didn’t succeed, I just stayed on the ground”).

Crystal Stilts spiller på Stengade i København d. 14. november og på Atlas i Aarhus d. 18. november. Nature Noir er ude nu på Sacred Bones.