Crystal Antlers first entered the public consciousness by way of last year’s oft brilliant EP, which showcased a band unremittingly hashing out idea after idea in a frenzied cloud of sawdust, somehow making it all work. Lacking in self-consciousness and hell bent on exorcising the devil out of Victor Rodriguz’s organ and Johnny Bell’s wonderfully spirited vocal panic attacks, the Long Beach six-piece were a breath of fresh air for rock lovers who appreciate grit to polish and relish in a rough-hewn aesthetic too often lacking in music today.
One year later and Crystal Antlers has cooked up one hell of an album with its debut full-length, Tentacles. Aptly titled, Tentacles plays like a rock opera cobbled together in a parallel universe where church organs supercede coherent vocals and melodies are birthed accidentally in a bluster of drums, guitar and bass.
Tracks like “Time Erased” and “Glacier” feel both exaggerated and perfectly natural, with their jam-band roots and classic-rock chord progressions always teetering on the brink of insanity. Just when things begin to feel familiar we are thrown in to a temper tantrum of noise that isn’t so much music as it is energy. And that very energy is a major factor in the success of both the band and its debut; Crystal Antlers make music that is vital and alive in the same way a heartbeat is essential to living.
At times, the band outdoes itself even by its own standards. “Until the Sun Dies (Part 1)” — we were treated to part 2 of this track on EP — suggests some kind of post-apocalyptic, subterranean hell as it segues from dirty blues to noise rock and back. While epic album closer “Several Tongues” offers up nearly four minutes of organ and feedback with Bell’s tortured vocal screaming from the bowels of a cave before the full band kick in to work out a group therapy session on 2-inch tape. It’s an oddly heartbreaking and thoroughly disconcerting affair, but, more important, it’s a stark reminder that Crystal Antlers is a force to reckon with.