Release Date: May 28, 2013
Record label: Atlantic
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Club/Dance, Indie Electronic
When we first heard Crystal Fighters’ spirited foray into alt. dance with efforts like ‘Plage’ and ‘Champion Sound’, it was clear that we had something pretty special on our hands. The British/Spanish five piece spout youthful vigour, a penchant for sun-laced sounds and bounding pep of a puppy – even the most heartbreaking of their cuts is carried by a lightness and a golden haze.
Three years after Crystal Fighters issued their debut, Star of Love, a collision of eclectic, engaging, and occasionally unfocused sounds and ideas, the band returned with a streamlined sound and roster on Cave Rave. The trio of Sebastian Pringle, Gilbert Vierich, and Graham Dixon smooth away the rough edges of their debut on this set, crafting a sound that is more focused even as it incorporates not just Star of Love's Basque instrumentation but also Mexican and African elements into sunny, feel-good electro-pop that recalls Yeasayer and Friendly Fires. While the firecracker former vocalist Mimi Borelli is missed, this new sound is just as engaging in a different way, particularly on its vibrant singles.
It’s almost three years since Crystal Fighters released their debut album, Star Of Love, to a good, if somewhat mixed, reception. While their unique style drew praise from several quarters, the overwhelming verdict was that Crystal Fighters’ first record was confused and chaotic. Star Of Love saw the English/Spanish five-piece attempt to fuse an eclectic range of styles, including an interesting mix of Basque folk music with electronic elements.
Crystal Fighters live in a universe where it’s perpetually sunny, the DJs never get tired, and the MDMA is far from wearing off. They holed up in the Basque hills of their native Spain to record the music for their second LP, Cave Rave – a title that perfectly encapsulates their earworm electronica and theatrical tendencies. Every second of the album’s 37-minutes goes straight for the jugular, and the band succeeds wildly in fusing traditional Spanish music with ultra-accessible dance beats.
Given Crystal Fighters’ genealogy, their musical reference points and their supposed backstory, it’s strange how utterly boring the end result often is. Their second album, like their first, halfheartedly dabbles in Balearic folk, but this time out, the New Age bullshit is well and truly front and centre. “In the galaxy of truth, your stars are the eyes” frontman Sebastian Pringle tells us on ‘Wave’, sounding like a crusty transfixed by his healing crystal.
For those of us who thought "crystal"-named bands had all died out a couple of years ago, perhaps having impaled themselves on the sharp edge of a pentagram or tripped over their robes into a symbolic abyss, here are Crystal Fighters, keeping the hallucinogenics-and-beards trope alive. This British/Spanish six-piece's second album sounds like an unsettling mix of Icelandic ad-friendly rockers Of Monsters and Men and a Gracelands-era Paul Simon tribute act, left out to bake in the scorching midday sun. There are moments of curiosity, particularly when they tone it down a bit – These Nights is gently summery, and You & I has festival singalong appeal – but on the whole it feels a little dated and overcooked.
Crystal Fighters’ debut, ‘Star Of Love’, was such a unique beast, harbouring all manner of Basque, electronic and dub sounds. The band and the album became one and the same. ‘Cave Rave’ largely builds on the lighter, brighter moments of that debut; as soon as ‘Wave’ kicks off here, it’s about ten degrees warmer outside.Lyrically, however, it’s pretty head-in-hands; it look a lot to not switch off after ‘let me tell you about a love natural / love that you just can’t help feeling / when feelings with meanings keep appearing’ in ‘Love Actual’.