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Crooked Flower - “Blooming: The Light Rail Sessions” (2018) review

Crooked Flower - Blooming: The Light Rail Sessions (Self-released, 2018) 

The West Coast rock group Crooked Flower is back with a new LP, this time featuring seven tracks worth of live studio performances. The six-member group doesn’t wait long before launching into their trademark psychedelia full throttle. With their wah-wah pedals secured, delay on high, and jazzy keyboarding, the release carves a spacious sonic playground amongst the syrupy distortion. 

“Came to Me in Dreams, Pt. 1 (Prelude)” provides a salient mixture of instrumentals and vocals, allowing us the necessary time to absorb the guitarists’ talent. But similar to their last EP, Darkness and Light, I can’t help but feel this ongoing dissonance between the the grunge-powered heavy rock and the main vocalist’s almost synthetic perfection. While all participants carry indubitable talent, there’s a slight mismatch between the brusqueness of echoing strings and faultlessly in-tune harmonies.

Yet halfway through “(Takin It) No More” the energetic ballad evaporates into a soft vibrato-heavy meandering. The vocals, now coated in a delectable reverb, could not be more fitting. You’re a beautiful nightmare, the refrain calls, trailing off into high pitched acrobatics. The tempo suavely marches on. Eventually, we face “Who You Are (I Want You),” which features an intensely noise-heavy and megalomaniacal solo. As the guitarist’s fingers slide across his frets, you hear subtle pops echo outward, fusing into a wall of sound with everything else. Lasting six and a half minutes, it’s a definitive album highlight.

But man, is the end something special. “Came to Me in Dreams, Pt. 2 (Conclusion)” takes us home with a lengthy instrumental bordering on jazz fusion. Keyboard, guitars, and bass—it’s as if each member finds a moment to shine through the atmospheric rock. You can really feel them playing, in the purest sense: building up the tension and then riding the wave as it cascades down. The instrumental agency this group has cultivated deserves quite the mention.

-Gabe Kahan
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