“Where's your will to be weird?”
― Jim Morrison
Crystal it seems, holds a better hand than most when it comes to music, playing a bewildering amount of instruments; accordion, musical saw, concertina, adungu (Ugandan harp), bombo (Argentinian drum), and various others… we wonder will the tune get lost under the talent?
Falling somewhere between gypsy jazz, polka and barrel-organ samba Muses and Bones is a confident record that at times revels in its own silliness too much to allow the casual listener much purchase.
Titles like 'The Misplaced Zygote: The Wrong Chimney' have the sort of inference that has bespectacled boys tittering
First impression of the first songs aren't promising; a weird little album that, while thin in the gut, sections become almost comic. Titles like 'The Misplaced Zygote: The Wrong Chimney' have the sort of inference that has bespectacled boys tittering around their agitated burners. What is it about a certain type of girl that needs to get all wacky?
Too clever, too secure, too assured? Why the make-up, why the frills? Alice in Wonderland fantasies? Impossible tweeness inverts shadows into shallow seriousness, is it la-la cuteness or eclectic eccentricism? If it doesn't take itself seriously, why should we?
Does it matter? I think that it does. Carnival music for the oddball middle class’s weekends of masked endeavours is cloying and apathetic. There is something trite about 'getting a little weird', the Burning Manification of the commercial edge (or vice versa) that almost defeats any actual dialogue between the types of existence.
talk about a corporate pop-up enchilada skate park and they're all over it
Sure, not many people would know their Temporary Autonomous Zones from their Ontological Anarchy, but talk about a corporate pop-up enchilada skate park and they're all over it. 'Yeah yeah, I saw one of those in Nike Town, it was amazing, they used an empty building and gave away energy drinks…I feel very satisfied'
It's hardly news that resistance culture is a great place to zeitgeist your products with the yoof, but surely sweatshop outsourcing corporations recreating Squats as Temporary Autocephalous Malls must raise an eyebrow… mustn't it?
The commercial has always understood the need for the Komisch Strasse to grease the wheels of creativity. So it is with Crystal Bright, where her perfection smacks of the right and the conservative, rather than the wild it signifies. Shades of the 80s; Bonnie Tyler and Stevie Nicks, replicate a manufactured restraint aimed at acceptance. It's trying to please and, like pop at its weakest, Muses and Bones seems to eager to be accepted by ears of over eight years.
But just when you've written the album off it turns down a dark path and you're compelled to follow.
Yes Crystal Bright displays her broadway boards, but she doesn't hide the splinters either, and marrying the sexless yearning of a Disney heroine with Steampunk rave rations one wonders who else can own this space. The melange of knowing musicality, folk fayre acoustic, dinner theatre, and eyeliner ambient works for CB and the Silver Hands and perhaps for them alone.
Today is a compositional tour de force, sawing from the heart strings an earnest monolithic build of Live (remember the 90s band) that lifts and lifts. It's clear Crystal Bright and the Silver Hands are very talented musicians and arrangers and in this particular track the wacky smiles give way to something deeper and fantastically satisfying. As the horns build during the pre-chorus and the indie beat quickens, Crystal's mercurial and girlish whimsy solidifies into Jarboe's angry womanhood. Underpinned by dark ambient acoustic drones and gritty reverbs the tone of Today is a revelation and worth the album price alone.
Muses and Bones is possibly the most musically accomplished album by an unsigned group that this reviewer has ever heard. The album descends in tone from a whimsical peak of twee musicalism into a gorgeously dark arena of sweeping chords, building motifs and consummate musicianship throughout.
Muses and Bones out now
Sean Keenan used to write. Now he edits, and gets very annoyed about the word ‘ethereal’. Likely to bite anyone using the form ‘I’m loving….’. Don’t start him on the misuse of three-dot ellipses.
Divides his time between mid-Spain and South-West France, like one of those bucktoothed, fur-clad minor-aristocracy ogresses you see in Hello magazine, only without the naff chandeliers.