CRYSTAL SHIPSSS - Yay
In the past, I saw Danish musician Jacob Faurholt as an ambitious singer/songwriter who continuingly delivered good albums without actually revolutionising his chosen genre. He is also the owner of Raw Onion Records, who quite recently released the impressive Sam Gray Singing album. This latter fact put him even higher in my esteem, and so I was looking forward to listening to his new record Yay, released under the name Crystal Shipsss.
My first impression was more or less something like “what the f**k?!?”, as this strange short ten-inch record, pressed on toxic green vinyl, was totally unlike anything I have ever heard from him or even anybody else. The item came with a download code for the album (of course), plus a complimentary remix album, and it’s here where things really become interesting. If you feel alienated after listening to Yay, just head on to the remixes, and once you head back to the regular version, everything is suddenly falling into place. So let’s start with the original versions.
Yay starts with the first single Smile, an unlikely piece of lo-fi folk, becoming even more unsettling with Faurholt’s newly found falsetto voice. Accompanied on acoustic guitar, this one and a half minute song has a truly haunting quality. Apart from three songs, everything comes under two minutes, like the following Geyser, where the guitar gets some distortion, and the still very high vocals sing along to primitive percussion. This reminds me stylistically of outsider artists like Daniel Johnston and Ariel Pink. My Dark Slimy Soul is another spooky ballad with acoustic guitar and discreet beats, before Uh Huh is with its three minute plus length something of the more epic pieces. Once again, there is undeniable genius, in this instance by clouding a wonderful melody underneath a lo-fi bedroom recording production. Romantic combines the virtues of balladry with garage grittiness, and that’s all for Side A.
Side B begins with Crystal Lipsss, another longer track starting with a beautiful piano melody, before the electric guitar adds some punch. Bloodstained Eyes is a short and fast falsetto garage punk anthem. Then it’s time again with The Jacket for one of those unsurpassable ballads. Burning Kingdom is the longest track with its four minute plus length and also the darkest track on the album. Expect some indie lo-fi doom rock that will leave you shaken. The ten-inch ends with the atonal Sunshine that comes with the same kind of detuned guitar that I have come to love on Daniel Johnston’s body of work: Sorry Entertainer comes to mind.
And that’s it for the regular part, but the bonus remix album even doubles the fun by doubling the length. The remixes take a lot of liberties with the original, without sacrificing the spirit of the source material. The single Smile for instance adds some clubby chord leads, a bubbly bass track and a nervous beat, while the garagy Geyser expands on the harsh guitars by interspersing some more laid back beat parts, thus increasing the dramatic momentum. My Dark Slimy Soul is labelled Prog-gasm Mix, quite fittingly as the added synths bestow the song a trippy, progressive element. Uh Huh convinced earlier already with its perfect melody, and the mix adds a danceability that gives a true and unequivocal hit quality. Romantic has a gloomy start before happy synths give it a 180 degree turn. Crystal Lipsss has been extended to six minutes, increasing the psychedelic nature of this song to unprecedented heights. Bloodstained Eyes has its punk energy replaced by an organ heavy drone sound that once again manages to highlight the qualities by completely overturning the original intention. The Jacket is only a minor remix, but the new synthesizer cloud makes it an even more romantic piece of music. Burning Kingdom has originally a regular doom atmosphere, but this long remix gradually ups the pace, and before you know it, the bouncy break-beats have turned it into an incredibly kinetic club hit! The concluding Sunshine has been stretched to nearly ten minutes, and while this is not my favourite moment here, it’s still a fitting way to end this remix album.
Fans of earlier Jacob Faurholt albums might be more than just a little estranged by Crystal Shipsss, but anyone who likes his music daring and unconventional will love the unpredictable indie lo-fi psychedelia weirdness of Yay! The more I listen to it, the more I love it. Make sure to get the vinyl version, as it comes with the download code for the bonus remix album. Ten points and nothing less for this groundbreaking piece of music and its accompanying new interpretations!