Tom Tom Video Review: Crystal Stilts – “Prismatic Room,” “Love is a Wave”

Crystal Stilts – “Prismatic Room” (2008), “Love is a Wave” (2009), both directed by Army of Kids

Shot on Super 8 the sun-splashed Crystal Stilts video for “Prismatic Rooms” from their debut Alight of Night (Slumberland 2008) feels like a rare peek into some stumbled upon vacation footage of a family of the coolest friends and misfits we’ve all yearned to belong to. There are glimpses of travels from the trails and sea sides of California and Oregon to a cozy kitchen in New York City and a living room full of playful, drunken masquerading. We’ve all been there, and if we haven’t, this video does a very good job of making us wish we had, with Alight of Night spinning on the record player in the background of course.


The Stilts in their new single “Love is a Wave” (Slumberland 2009, Angular Recording Co. in Europe) remain a master of mining their influences and weaving them into highly catchy, jangly songs, and the return of Army of Kids to direct the video for “Love is a Wave” is a perfect choice. They continue the breezy, summery feel of “Prismatic Room” but this time through juxtaposing stills and film snippets inter-spliced with stock footage of everything from eerie bicyclers to chimps on a date at the beach and a carnivalesque sequence of windmills and fireworks in black and white, creating a spiraling psychedelic montage that matches well the song’s more upbeat tempo. Though one misses the charming, shambling presence of the Stilts themselves, the borrowed images, much like the grainy texture that 8mm evokes, perhaps tap more fully the nostalgic feel of and for the eras they love. It all makes sense in these collected moments of the tongue-in-cheek and childhood ephemera as they balance the Stilt’s and especially Hargett’s lyrics, which are a horse of a slightly darker, more pensive breed.


The Crystal Stilts clearly have a thoughtful yet blithe musical and overall aesthetic philosophy, citing equally 17th century French mathematician and theologian Blaise Pascal, the Television Personalities, Communication Blur fanzine and Roadrunner cartoons. They couldn’t execute it so well, however, without the gracefully choreographed tambourined beats (often done standing up) of Frankie Rose on the drums, featured in an exclusive interview soon to be appearing in the premiere print edition of  Tom Tom Mag near you. She just might be the ‘heart that has its reasons which reason does not know’ behind Brad Hargett’s smoky haze of a voice, Andy Agner’s trembling bass lines, JB Townsend’s superfuzzed guitars and Kyle Forester’s mellifluous keyboards. Rose’s sunny smile is the counterpoint to Hargett and Townsend’s respective Dylan- and Warhol-esque aloofness in “Prismatic Rooms” just as her drums are the aural counterpunch to the rest of the band’s, filling out and inviting us into the perverse and happy melancholia that seems to be the Stilt’s signature sound. We feel it in a thousand ways, and Army of Kids’ work in both “Prismatic Room” and “Love is a Wave” delivers as if on a drowsily spinning palette wheel those delicate sonic things that the music of Crystal Stilts captures.



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