Guerrilla Toss’ sixth album, “Twisted Crystal,” demonstrates the band’s experimental capabilities with a mind-tangling rabbit hole of sound.
The Bostonian-turned-New Yorker group was listed as one of Rolling Stone’s Top 10 modern punk bands in 2016, and they defend their title with a creative and versatile body of work. The record consists of nine tracks, each track uniquely varied yet cohesive. The diversity represented in this album makes it difficult to pin “Twisted Crystal” to a single style.
Guerrilla Toss’ newest member, Stephe Cooper, boasts his talent on groovy bass-lines that cohere to the album’s chaotic ensemble of synthetic sound. Cooper’s warmth brings a much needed anthropomorphism to Twisted Crystal’s metallic aesthetic.
Kassie Carlson’s vocals feel cold and disengaged. While it is an interesting style choice, a melodic and emotional performance would add balance to all of the album’s mechanical elements; especially since listener’s heard more of Carlson’s depth on the band’s last album, “GT Ultra.” Her lyrics are poetic tales of magic and third eyes, and focus on dissolving the constructs of society to reveal deeper truths.
Twisted Crystal presents a mature and obscure version of the band which draws inspiration from video games in both name and sampling. The album has a heavy start with songs like “Magic is Easy” and “Jesus Rabbit.” From there Guerrilla Toss rolls through techno, and flies into a synthetic trip with “Walls of the Universe,” a beautiful choral piece with reverberating strings, to close the album.
Guerrilla Toss emulates classic rock in their guitar riffs, synth from pop hits, and hip-hop drum beats, all in small doses. These influences are overlaid with wobbly synthetic and guitar parts, often in keys unfamiliar to the Western ear. If the B52’s stumbled through a time machine, you’d get “Twisted Crystal.”
The album’s title is fitting, as each song resembles a different facet of a musical gem. Each song is a distorted reflection of its predecessor, and the album glitters with galactic accents. The femininity that Carlson brings to the band’s jarring atmosphere creates a softness that sparkles. However, find this crystal a little too twisted.
The album’s eccentricity melds with satellite channels like XMU where eclectic sound junkies turn for the latest zany tunes. At times, the congested instrumentals translate as arbitrary, not like the intricate art rock persona Guerrilla Toss cultivated over the years. “Twisted Crystal’s” frenzied sound borders on overshadowing the songs’ messages, practically inducing headaches for first-time listeners.
The lead single “Meteorological” can be mistaken for the same folly. However after several listens, the exhilarating rhythm of the song becomes mesmerizing, and listeners are trapped in the spell of Carlson’s chant. Give Twisted Crystal a spin and it might just be the variety your collection needs.
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