Two decades before the United States draped itself in an EDM blanket, The Crystal Method’s Scott Kirkland and Ken D. Jordan self-drew the blueprint for a viable electronic dance music model and built themselves into an exemplar prototype. Now that the rest of the continent has caught up with the duo, The Crystal Method releases its self-titled fifth album, replete with high-wattage guests like LeAnn Rimes and The Voice finalist Dia Frampton (of Meg And Dia) plus collaborations with flashy dance-floor superstars Le Castle Vania and Nick Thayer.
In the five years since its last album, Divided By Night, the EDM landscape has changed dramatically, but The Crystal Method has not been absent from it. It can be heard daily, thanks to syndication, on the opening credits of television’s Bones, and these home visits have extended to the soundtracking of Almost Human. Additionally, The Crystal Method’s weekly Sirius XM radio show, Community Service, has kept the duo current and in the public’s consciousness.
Drawing from contemporaries without losing its creators’ already-defined musical persona, The Crystal Method retains the duo’s identifiable chiseled breakbeats updated with messy-sounding—yet immensely popular—electrified synth lines. Album-opener “Emulator” exemplifies this blend of tried with trendy. Teaming up with Australian Nick Thayer, a member of Skrillex’s OWSLA stable for the bouncing “Dosimeter,” Kirkland and Jordan create elasticized basslines that slow down every so often to a distorted vocal lazily repeating, “What are you / Crazy?” Much crazier is “Storm The Castle,” an overly hectic concoction featuring Le Castle Vania. Los Angeles residents will empathize with “110 To The 101,” which refers to the clogged freeway interchange-cum-stacked-parking-lot downtown where stalled drivers can practically feel the life draining out of their bodies. The rustling number is not the best song to listen to while at a standstill, but its sentiments can be appreciated.
The vocal tracks on The Crystal Method are its strongest suit. Dia Frampton’s little-girl chirps slot neatly into the escalating synth lines of “Over It.” Scars On Broadway’s Franky Perez brings a soulful bent to the syncopated beats of “Difference” and dance duo Afrobeta take a hallucinogenic turn on the wandering “After Hours.” The unexpected highlight of the album is “Grace” featuring LeAnn Rimes. This unlikely pairing allows Rimes’ pipes to really flex. Her voice soars over plaintive synth lines, engaging the instrumentals in a man/machine duet.
The Crystal Method is not a comprehensive listening album, but it’s not meant to be. The more accessible numbers are bunched up in the last third, while the chunk before works best in its birth setting: the dance floor. That’s where The Crystal Method is going to shine, appealing both to fans who grew up with the two and those who weren’t yet born when the duo formed.