Pure X’s languid, hallucinatory soundscapes get darker, with mostly mixed — though occasionally stellar — results.
6.9 / 10
Pure X‘s 2011 full-length debut, Pleasure, was 37 minutes of laid-back, murky psychedelia awash in reverb and droning atmospherics, with a warm and “floaty” vibe that made for blissful inner-space journeys. And while Crawling Up The Stairs retains most of that formula, it has a much darker, more intense feel to it, both musically and lyrically, making for a listen that may not be quite as blissful, but one that, at times, is more emotionally powerful.
Whereas the lyrics on their debut were lost in the swirling soundscapes, here they’re upfront in the mix, demanding your attention instead of providing mere background noise, and they’re quite downbeat at times, even ominous, yet done in a way that’s rather poetic, and occasionally even moving. The overall sound here is like a cross between Galaxie 500 and Spacemen 3, only much spookier, as evidenced by the dramatic, tortured lyrics and vocals of the otherwise serene “Someone Else” and “How Did You Find Me.”
The album’s not all gloominess and despair, however, as both “I Fear What I Feel” and “Thousand Year Old Child” have an almost 60’s Motown vibe, with the former even throwing in a bit of funk, which I never thought I’d say about a Pure X song after the hazy fuzz of their early EP’s (when they were known as Pure Ecstasy). Of course, both songs are still extremely tripped-out — filled with layered, wobbly atmospherics — as is the rest of the album. Only now there are actual hooks for the listener to latch onto, hooks that could sometimes even be described as catchy. They don’t always work, but when they do, they truly are absorbing when combined with the spacey background instrumentation.
The tracks on Crawling Up the Stairs just feel more like actual songs, so while it’s not quite as easy to get lost in the multi-layered depths, the combination of front-and-center lyrics and slightly more traditional song structures makes for an album that could be listened to anytime, as opposed to being saved for late-night headphone sessions. The darkness that pervades the majority of the album may become wearying, and infect the rest of your day, but so will the pure sonic beauty this band, at times, so effortlessly conjures up.
Purchase: Pure X – Crawling Up the Stairs