Crooked Flower – Darkness and Light (Self-released, 2018)
The Bay Area outfit Crooked Flower has got the psychedelic rock formula down pat. Their recently released EP, Darkness and Light, is a guilty pleasure for any fans of wobbly bass, spacey reverb, and a lead guitar that seems to trudge through a river of glistening mud. The four-member band has the songwriting prowess of Spirit and the angst-drenched dynamism of The Breeders.
What puts this particular release above others in their class is the group’s ability (and audacity) to linger in the shoegazey fog of their instruments. “Moving On” and “Tunnel of Light” are both undergirded by numerous layers of distortion and melodic static. The release’s producers were right to give just as much attention to the foreground as the background—after all, it’s the details that takes any album from good to great.
While the Natasha Bedingfield-esque vocals can sometimes feel out of place (not to mention the lyrics of “Boyfriend” feeling like the soundtrack to a Disney movie), it’s made clear how integral the instrumentation is to the group’s success. Regardless of the musical direction of the vocalist, there is an ongoing catharsis driven by the chemistry between guitar, drums, and keyboard.
“Bells of Brixton” provides a change of pace, an opportunity to display the group’s true capabilities. The track is a potent blend of space rock, jazz-funk, prog rock, and an electronic soundscape. Lasting over 10 minutes, it feels akin to a suite. Imagine a jam band dipped in honey, crunchy distortion, and delay pedals. And the whole time, my attention does not fade. I’m impressed.
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