Music

The Crystal Method: Divided By Night

While the vocalists and instrumentalists involved certainly contribute to a varied and interesting listen, many of those guests are either poorly chosen or awkwardly integrated into the sound.


The Crystal Method

Divided By Night

Contributors: Matisyahu, Peter Hook, Justin Warfield, Stefanie King Warfield, Meiko, LMFAO, Emily Haines, Jason Lytle
Label: Tiny E
UK Release Date: Import
US Release Date: 2009-05-12
Website
Artist website
Amazon
iTunes

Part of the frustration audiences tend to have with the music of the Crystal Method certainly stems from potential. Specifically, the Crystal Method simply doesn't seem interested in fulfilling any of the artistic aspirations foisted upon the duo after the release of its surprisingly well-received 1997 debut, Vegas. Rather, Ken Jordan and Scott Kirkland are content with making beat-heavy compositions designed with the simple goal of making people move. The moment we start expecting more from them is the moment we're bound to be disappointed, because there is no deeper meaning. There is no genre bending. There is no instrumental virtuosity. There is only the beat, and everything else is incidental.

Expectations in check, then, Divided By Night is, by all means, a Crystal Method album.

It's not, however, exactly the same as other Crystal Method albums, for two primary reasons: First, and perhaps most important, the programming style of the duo finally seems to be a bit updated. There's a dirtier, grimier sound to much of the album that fits it squarely into 2009. This is, for better or worse, the music you can expect to hear as the forensic experts of, say, CSI: Miami drop food dye into test tubes for our benefit. Second, the variety of guests, which simultaneously adds to and subtracts from the replay value of the album, sets it apart. While the vocalists and instrumentalists involved certainly contribute to a varied and interesting listen, many guests are either poorly chosen or awkwardly integrated into the sound, detracting from the experience as a whole.

The worst of these guest turns is, perhaps not coincidentally, that of Stephanie King Warfield, the wife of She Wants Revenge vocalist Justin Warfield (who also shows up to do his over-the-top gothy thing for four minutes). Her song, "Black Rainbows", starts off really well, actually, as a quiet, minimal bit of electronic programming that sounds utterly different from anything else on the disc; unfortunately, Jordan and Kirkland can't seem to avoid tossing distorted synth work in there eventually, and once they do, Ms. Warfield shows up and gives a performance that's in tune but disposable, offering very little feeling to the tale of a girl who "danced with her head down", unfortunately -- that this has already been tabbed the second single seems a terribly unfortunate decision.

Elsewhere, Jason Lytle, a man who typically does wonders with a flat raspy tenor, is reduced to another slicked-up voice singing about getting "caught in the slipstream" or some such nonsense, while a cheesy guitar picks around him in the open spots where he's not singing. Even that awkward pairing is miles ahead of the collaboration with LMFAO, whose raps on "Sine Language" are as immediately dated as the acronym they've chosen to define themselves.

Why do electronic artists feel the need to populate its albums with guest artists, anyway? While it's surely the quickest and easiest route to mainstream-radio play and record sales (perhaps I've already answered my own question), the electronic artist risks a loss of identity to whoever provides the vocals. The duo didn't need a vocalist to create the compositions that put them on the map ("Busy Child" and "Trip Like I Do", though Filter's Richard Patrick did admittedly raise the visibility of the latter with the version on the Spawn soundtrack), and the group's best tracks on Divided By Night are the instrumentals. Particularly excellent is the samples-and-distortion-heavy stomp of "Double Down Under", and the minor key dancehall brooding of "Dirty Thirty", the latter of which is enhanced by Peter Hook's instantly identifiable hollow bass tones.

This isn't to say that some of the vocal guest turns aren't great -- Matisyahu's melodic, rhythmic turn on "Drown in the Now" was a perfect choice for first single, and closer "Falling Hard", with Meiko, is a lovely little bit of downtempo and Grey's Anatomy fodder -- but mostly it's just voices over dance tunes.

The prevalence of so many voices, in fact, transforms Divided By Night from a solid if predictable set of well-programmed, well-produced dance tunes into a rote compilation of pop songs. Very little will turn off anyone who likes dance music, but this tends to be the nature of disposable pop music anyway (not that pop is necessarily disposable, but most of this certainly is). Jordan and Kirkland continue to insist on squandering the potential they have to create a memorable album of electronic dance music in favor of pop-radio aspirations. Perhaps it's time to give up on such expectations.

5


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Books

A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.

Music

The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Music

Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.

Music

Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.

Television

HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.

Music

Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.

Music

Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.

Books

'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.

Film

'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.

Music

Max Richter's 'VOICES' Is an Awe-Inspiring and Heartfelt Soundscape

Choral singing, piano, synths, and an "upside-down" orchestra complement crowd-sourced voices from across the globe on Max Richter's VOICES. It rewards deep listening, and acts as a global rebuke against bigotry, extremism and authoritarianism.

Music

DYLYN Dares to "Find Myself" by Facing Fears and Life's Dark Forces (premiere + interview)

Shifting gears from aspiring electropop princess to rock 'n' rule dream queen, Toronto's DYLYN is re-examining her life while searching for truth with a new song and a very scary-good music video.

Music

JOBS Make Bizarre and Exhilarating Noise with 'endless birthdays'

Brooklyn experimental quartet JOBS don't have a conventional musical bone in their body, resulting in a thrilling, typically off-kilter new album, endless birthdays.

Music

​Nnamdï' Creates a Lively Home for Himself in His Mind on 'BRAT'

Nnamdï's BRAT is a labyrinth detailing the insular journey of a young, eclectic DIY artist who takes on the weighty responsibility of reaching a point where he can do what he loves for a living.

Music

Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few Play It Cool​

Austin's Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few perform sophisticatedly unsophisticated jazz/Americana that's perfect for these times

Music

Eleanor Underhill Takes Us to the 'Land of the Living' (album stream)

Eleanor Underhill's Land of the Living is a diverse album drawing on folk, pop, R&B, and Americana. It's an emotionally powerful collection that inspires repeated listens.

Music

How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.

Books

Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.

Music

Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.