by Joseph Barsness (@josephshiatus)
Occasionally, a piece of art catches you in a way that feels like some abstract hand smacking distinct aesthetic appreciation into your head - the self-titled release from New York via Massachusetts' Crumb slapped me as such. The group plays as a 4-piece that dissects and translates a psychedelic/jazz sound into something relatable but experimental. Crumb came together at Tufts University not under creative similarities, but largely as a means to flesh out vocalist and lead guitarist Lila Ramani’s compositions. The anatomy of this arrangement produces nuanced variations of Ramani’s work; the band’s individual contributions synergizing and being bound cohesively with her solid vocalization and song structure. On Locket, Crumb operates somewhere within a cloudy-but-clean pop/jazz realm. Although Locket only runs a short 4 tracks, the band packs in enough variance and polish to give the EP as much longevity as a full length album.
"Plants" kicks things off with a familiar and cozy jazz-loop structure; reverb splashes across multiple layers, and a playful bass line pairs dreamily with tight drumming. Ramani sets a lazy, relaxed tone, echoing lines such as “I don’t have class / got a lot of time on my hands to sit / wait around for a sec.” Just as the loop begins to wear, tempo slows to a crawl and a blast of instrumentation closes the track in a culmination encompassing every flavor "Plants" has to offer.
"Recently Played" follows in a haze structured around jazz drumming and Ramani’s floating vocalization, touching elements of lo-fi and retro sounds on the way to a dainty synth close. The track bleeds melancholia in the best of ways – “Now is the time passing you by” comes off as a passing, flippant quip before the psychedelia-soaked chorus tears into outer space.
"Thirty-Nine" is a bit of an outlier on the release. Heavily breaking from the tone of the previous tracks, its chorus comes in a treble-y psych-rock jam complete with overdriven guitar strums and arpeggios. The bass keeps a solid, steady psychedelic groove throughout as guitar solos and fuzz take over the finishing third of the track. The tune itself is catchy and impressively cohesive, but what floors me is the sheer variance between songs on this release. I briefly mentioned it in introduction, but I can’t stress it enough – for a 4 track EP, there are bundles of styles colliding and synergizing in every possible way.
To close the EP, the title track "Locket" begins by building a wave of keys and percussion. This wave crashes, and leaves a bubbly synth and general low fidelity as a platform for Ramani’s vocals to instill that familiar coziness. The track continues to deliver as synth, bass, and guitar fiddle around each other in an end to a short but instrumentally dense release.
Crumb has accomplished excellence on Locket because of its sonic content as well as the group’s ability to draw from their emotional well and project it in a transparent and honest way. The EP relocates the listener’s headspace to match the lyricism as well as the tonality – in that place, they’re shown feelings of detachment, melancholia, nostalgia, and uncertainty. Crumb uses these emotions as a playground for building tone - whether the success of this is a product of Ramani’s honest songwriting, the band’s synergy, or some union of the two, Locket delivers something experimental but down to earth.