Live: Crystal Ark Commands The People To Dance At (Le) Poisson Rouge

thecrystalark.jpg
Crystal Ark w/Light Asylum, GHE20 G0TH1K DJs
(le) poisson rouge
Thursday, October 13

Better than: Any dance party that doesn't come with hired vogue-queens.

"People don't dance no more," quipped a fellow patron at last night's Crystal Ark show at Le Poisson Rouge. Those that overheard laughed at the line made famous by the band's DFA-mates the Rapture. Unfortunately those words, once shouted in protest of the pretension and aloofness of the indie-rock scene, served as an an astute observation of the few hundred people in the audience; arms crossed, stubbornly grouped at the front of the stage, and far too chatty for people who paid money to see a band perform.

The frustration that comes with being at a dance party where no one dances is augmented when the band you've come to see is a dance collective as brilliantly enigmatic as Crystal Ark. Led by Gavin Russom and vocalist Viva Ruiz, the nine-person group began as a way for its individual members to explore their crossover interests in synth-driven, tropical-influenced, spiritual dance jams. Russom's nerd-level knowledge of computers included re-configuring vintage production gear and even making some of his own synth creations. Last night he took the stage behind one such musical plaything, dressed in a white jumpsuit adorned with a foil-wrapped star over his heart. He beckoned the rest of his band to join him. One by one appeared a basist, a guitarist, a drummer, and a keyboardist. They all wore the same thing.

"I want you to feel your body," instructed Russom over a building drone of keyboards. "I want you to feel yourself inside of your body." This sort of dance-induced hypnosis played a theme through the group's non-stop set. Soon a trio of singers joined the band on stage, complementing the house-influenced congo beats—the kind that take inspiration from nineties-era Latin rave—with siren coos and breathy chants that hid comfortably among the electronic fuzz. As the girls writhed around, emulating some sort of ritual lost to the sands of time (forming a circle, falling to the ground, raising their hands up to the sky), two green figures vogued on either side of the stage.

There's a lot to take in at a Crystal Ark show. There's also a strong possibility that you'll get lost into the heady euphoria alongside them. The night's highlight came during the tension-filled epic "The City Never Sleeps." The band rode through a haze of '70s psychadelia, built into a cowbell-accented house groove, and pushed through into an acid-house tromp. Ruiz and Russom wrestled for vocal reign with a quietly menacing chant of "Open the door / I just want some more," though by this time I was fist-pumping and chanting along with them. When I finally snapped out of the sweaty dance daze, I saw that the rest of the sunken dance floor was finally flailing along. Thank god.

Critical bias: I was already a fan of Black Meteoric Star.

Overheard: "This is awesome." "You're kidding, right?" "No?" "Oh, I got in for free."

Random notebook dump: If while you're getting ready you have to ask yourself, "Is this bindi Too Much?" then it probably is.

Setlist
Raygun
Touch
Rain
The City Never Sleeps
We Came To
--
Blue Skies


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