OK, I’m just gonna say it — Gavin Russom is the man. He spends his time building modular synths, having about fifteen distinct musical endeavors on his burners all at once, making sick-ass podcasts, etc. etc. As the Wikipedia entry about him puts it, “Russom’s aesthetic is the search for unity between man, machine, and art.” He pulls this off with aplomb: his taste is cheeky, playful, unafraid of goofiness — or of driving things off the beaten path and into more wantonly absurd territory.
The over-the-top-ness of The Crystal Ark's eponymous debut full-length is just about the only assailable thing I can drum up to say about it. To be honest, though, it's not as if that my ears are particularly geared against grandiosity or pretense, and maybe that's why I'm so into this record, what with half of its cuts clocking in well over the seven-minute mark. One way or another, the LP is an eight-track romp through a wild, lysergic summer night in The Big City: it's dreamy and inward at times, bombastic and dance-floor-possessive at others, with moments of tension and exploration weaved in — resulting in a neon-tinged psychedelic tapestry of Latin-infused disco-house that is bringing some much needed reinforcement to your blog hosts' current battle with seasonal affective disorder.
Russom’s artistry as a composer and knob-twiddler (sound designer, if you prefer) is in full force throughout the record, but he shares the spotlight with - and is routinely dwarfed by - the commanding, sultry-as-all-getout Viva Ruiz. Her vocals are The Ark’s catalyst, as tracks like the saucy-yet-surreal single “Morir Soñando” and the funky, synth-washed “We Came To” amply prove. The epic chorus loops in “Silver Cord” feel a bit like Ruiz is showing off, but fuck it, she should be showing off - 2012’s crop of other singers in the electronic/dance category could stand to learn a ton from the woman, as the band’s deliciously ass-kicking (and apt) cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk” made clear earlier this year.
I’ve seen The Crystal Ark both getting dismissed by other reviewers and being lauded as fervently as what you’re reading here, so it’s what one could call a divisive record. It is hard to imagine anyone taking the fence position on it for sure — you either like your bilingual disco-funk swaddled in cutoff manipulation and noodling brass outros or you don’t, y’know? INTERZONING recommends the hell out of it, but go on and make your own decision, loves. DFA’s got half of it streaming via Soundcloud, below.
(Cal von B)
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