Renowned for their theatrical live shows, a heady mix of folktronica, rock-opera and tequila, Anglo-Spanish collective Crystal Fighters may have concerned some fans over their ramshackle spirit by naming their second studio album Cave Rave.
Thankfully, the follow-up to 2010’s Star Of Love isn’t the wall-to-wall club bangers affair its title suggests. Indeed, there’s still plenty of Crystal Fighters’ favoured exotic instrumentation (e.g., the Basque txalaparta, the Bolivian charango) on display here, while other than the throbbing synths and dubstep interlude on “Separator,” the whole EDM scene appears to have completely passed them by.
But dominated by tribal rhythms, rousing sing-along harmonies and Latin-tinged electronica, Cave Rave is still very much a carnival record bursting with ideas, whether it’s the feel-good Vampire Weekend-esque Afrobeat of “LA Calling,” the pulsing indie-disco of “Are We One” or the sun-kissed nu-rave of opener “Wave,” the latter of which recalls MGMT before they went all tune-free prog.
It’s to Crystal Fighters’ credit that they manage to organise such chaos so efficiently, never allowing a track to outstay its welcome or to sink under the weight of its own self-indulgence. Only two tracks clock in over the four-minute mark while there are at least half a dozen songs with the potential to become festival hits this summer.
None more so than lead single, “You & I,” a joyous celebration of love which sees frontman Sebastian Pringle in a strangely robotic mode against a backdrop of ukuleles, calypso beats and kaleidoscopic synths.
The more melancholic offerings are just as intriguing. The epic “Bridge Of Bones” begins as the kind of Elton John piano-led pastiche that Scissor Sisters served up nearly a decade ago before seguing into a blissful slice of gospel-tinged psychedelia reminiscent of Primal Scream’s early 90s heyday. A similar curveball on “These Nights,” which swerves from wistful acoustic folk to drum n’bass, proves that Crystal Fighters ballads can never be described as predictable.
More streamlined and focused than their avant-garde debut, but still retaining its engaging sense of playfulness, Cave Rave might just turn out to be one of the most entertaining records of the year.