Sunday 21 May 2023

Of Cults and Crystals

For the first time in a long while, I picked something up from Bandcamp when it wasn't a Friday. I should do that more often really, the main reason I don't is I normally get side-tracked until the Friday reminds me to pick up some records. But I digress, label Creme Organization was offering a 40% discount code, so I went digital crate digging once again.

Legowelt was the one on my radar this time, like so many artists I have a smattering of tracks from compilations that marked their first appearance in my collection. I had a couple of freebie albums that Legowelt had put out, but I figured it was high time I dive in. Crystal Cult 2080 has been in my wishlist for a while, one of those albums where I heard the opening track and said to myself "oh, I'm saving this one for later!" And then the list inevitably grows and it gets a little lost. Saying that, I do like it in cases like this where I come back to the album, and my feelings towards the first tracks are still the same.

We have to talk about the elephant in the room first of all, the obvious occult trappings. There's something I find charmingly humorous about the album art - the image of a robed wizardly figure just going to town on some synths is brilliant. It doesn't reflect too much on the tracks content bar a few vocal samples, but I think that's OK, it can be easy to overdo something like that. Of course, if you're after something that taps into that a little more - electronic music and the occult have a long history that could be a post all on its own: Mort Garson's self described electronic impressions under the Ataraxia moniker, to the modern resurgence of fantasy synthwave dubbed 'dungeon synth' to name but two.

But let's get into the album itself, starting with that first track I've mentioned a few times already, Experiential Awakening. You will know from the get go if the album is for you, as an opening Awakening does an excellent job of setting the stage. From its 8:08 runtime, the combination of hypnotic backing and that deliciously thick bassline and of course, those previously mentioned occult-y vocal samples, it weaves the forms that will make up the rest of the LP.

Track 2 lays it on even thicker, sporting the title Ancient Rites Demoni Mundi. While that intro had me enticed from the get go - I was a little on the fence about it for a while. The backbone being the suitably hazy descending melody which can get a little tiresome, but that's mitigated by the action happening in the background again that keeps things interesting. Not meaning to come off so negative mind, I've come to love parts of it in time - the little breaks that introduce lovely analogue elements starting around the half way mark are lovely, and there is some fantastic synth noodling in the last quarter too.

The techy titled Excalibur R8MK2 starts off a lot more intense than anything so far, but it soon settles into that same hypnotic groove, the shorter runtime once again helping it stay a little fresher. Infused with that high tech sound I love so much, this one has been a mainstay since I picked it up, I find the "Drink from the chalice" line creeping into my head disturbingly often. There are times where the album feels like a 'best of' from an extended jam session, definitely thematically appropriate given the aesthetic surroundings - that's something I've also found with Legowelt's Teac Life, though Crystal Cult feels tighter overall (and also clocks in at about half the length of the extended Teac Life too, which no doubt helps).

The album's opening quarter is where it's strongest for me, which is why I've gone for the opening 1-2-3, but there is plenty more to get stuck into if you like this little slice. It's been a little odd to explore this side of Legowelt, my previous exposure being Disco Rout from the Tangent 2002: Disco Nouveau compilation (which I adore, being the electroclash fiend that I am) - but in fact, coming back to that track after spending some time with the Cult, it's not a million miles removed. I'll have to see about looking into Legowelt's older works at some point and see if that rings true across the board. That'll about do it for today, I'll be back around soon enough with more but until then, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


No comments: