Purple Pilgrims and Radiant Door by Crystal Stilts review

by Fiona Rae / 28 January, 2012
A release from two sisters comes with a hand-sewn 12-page zine.


While the understated yet quietly assured self-titled eight-inch release PURPLE PILGRIMS (Pseudoarcana, available from www.pseudoarcana.com) is assertively lo-as-fi-can-go, it is a pretty good example of gently and deeply moving elegant dream pop. Now Hong Kong-based, sisters Clementine and Valentine Nixon were pre-earthquake Christchurch residents. With a strong Xerox aesthetic, there is a lovingly handmade craft element to this release, which comes with a hand-sewn 12-page zine. Mastered by Brian Crook (from Christchurch groups the Terminals and the Renderers), the release shimmers with chimerical ebbs and flows. A lovely deep and droning murkiness balances the gauziness. The duo has been invited to play at the South By South West (SXSW) music conference in Austin, Texas, this year.

Brooklyn's Crystal Stilts stunned me with their debut album, Alight of Night, in 2008. I played the record, and in particular single Departure, day in, day out for two years. Their 21-minute EP RADIANT DOOR (Sacred Bones) shares the same reference points: the more accessible stripped-back work of the Velvet Underground and the poppier side of the Jesus and Mary Chain. But more interestingly, their sound is informed by the psychedelic angles of the Clean and the (criminally overlooked) heavier drugged-up material of the Chills. Reverb-drenched and melodic, it has an infectiously joyous quality. A further nod to their musical roots is the cover of Low Profile by Blue Orchids – the terrific group Martin Bramah formed after he left the Fall. Highly recommended.

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