Long Beach psychedelic pop-rockers Crystal Antlers emerged in early 2008, championing the late 1960’s experimental revival that’s become so trendy, whetting blogger appetites with a handful of singles, an EP, and a well-received debut LP. This summer, they finally return to the surf-rock stage with their sophomore effort, Two-Way Mirror. The product of a group writing retreat to a barn in costal Mexico, the jumbled and raucous album stops short of Crystal Antlers’ widely hailed debut Tentacles, with few redeeming elements.
Though the Antlers’ signature is lackadaisical, trippy style much like the Black Lips, Two-Way Mirror sounds like a scattered, tangled barrage of feedback on opener “Jule’s Story”—a theme that continues on “By the Sawkill” and snarls the album’s finer points in a mess of exposed, distorted noise. Brighter spots throughout the 11 tracks, each sequestered to short playtimes, give Two-Way Mirror a tiny bit of staying power. The breezy folk-rock of “Summer Solstice” serves as a much needed reprieve from the noisy undertow. Vocalist Johnny Bell yowls in earnest, sometimes coupling nicely with the coastal surf feel (“Sun Bleached”) and at other times, failing to mesh at all (“Knee Deep”). Trippy organ instrumental “Way Out” and the overall spontaneity of most of Two-Way Mirror’s tracks should provide stunning live sets, in the very least.
Overall, Two-Way Mirror takes a leap into a psych-rock vortex, creating an album that will echo beautifully across a steamy, Solo-cup-littered summer lawn. Album closer “Dog Days” clocks in at the longest piece, a six-minute throbbing jam that caps off the experimental haze. Dripping guitars and distortion follow Crystal Antlers’ predictable style, but the messy trajectory of Two-Way Mirror requires serious tolerance for walls of noise to endure from start to finish.