Crumb ‘Ice Melt’ Sounds Like Psychedelic Liquid Dreams
Crumb’s second album, Ice Melt, takes its name from the coarse blend of salts that you can buy from your local hardware store for £9.99 a bag. When sprinkled on your wintry steps, this mixture absorbs water and gives off heat, transforming the snow and ice into a viscous, briney slush and, eventually, nothing at all. Beginning with the dynamic chaos of “Up & Down,” and ending with Crumb’s closest thing to a lullaby, Ice Melt’s ten tracks combine, like ice sculptures melting into a glistening puddle, into the liquid record of a tumultuous, cathartic journey to safer ground. “Is it like magic or a dream?,” frontwoman Lila Ramani sings on the title track, weaving mythological undercurrents into mundane earthly processes. “It all drips down into the sea.”
From the start, Crumb was a nebulous project, stitched together from various locations, inspirations, experiences, and relationships. Even in their early days, living in jam-packed Boston apartments in 2016, the group knew that cohesion was best achieved through plumbing their individual strengths — Ramani’s earliest songwriting, which catalyzed the group’s first two EPs, Crumb (2016) and Locket (2017); Bri Aronow’s knack for building (dis)affecting soundscapes; Jesse Brotter’s melodic bass playing, a Crumb mainstay; and Jonathan Gilad’s drums, which give the music an otherworldly vitality. Even as their fan base grew, they chose to remain independent, self-releasing each album, and now Ice Melt, through their own label, Crumb Records. These early decisions have made Crumb a project of self-discovery, four creative minds converging around an idea that is always shifting and reforming.
Early 2020 found the members of Crumb convening in Los Angeles to work with producer Jonathan Rado, engineer/mixer Michael Harris, and walls of instruments and vintage hi-fi recording equipment at Electro-Vox Studios and Sonora Recorders. Working with Rado and Harris allowed Crumb to tap into atmosphere-creation like never before, building experimental, hypnotic compositions that are at turns head-nodding and surrealist, energetic and euphoric. Spectral synth drones buoy lilting bass and drums through noise guitar interruptions, digital glitch, and processed vocals on “Trophy.” “Balloon” builds into a warbling disco with helium-sucking alien voices inviting you to dance.
Ramani, who made many of the album’s initial demos on a trip to Los Angeles in 2019, characterizes the album as a “return back down to earth,” a deeply felt examination of “real substances and beings that live on this planet.” Ice Melt finds Ramani’s vocals in deeper interplay with her indelible guitar lines, which weave in and out of every track, the tones of each calibrated for the specific feeling of the moment. Aronow, inspired by their interest in the uninhibited nature of improvisation, transmutes colours and textures into the sonic backdrop of each track, creating the layered, synth-anchored nervous system of the album.
And if Ramani and Aronow provide something like the heart and gut to Ice Melt, Gilad and Brotter provide the bodily grounding, the arms and the legs of the project’s multiplex anatomy. Gilad’s thrashing, levelling percussion — using an expanded palette of samples and drum machines alongside his live kit—provides a focused, rhythmic vessel while allowing the album to reach ecstatic heights. And beyond Brotter’s bass, dexterous and elegant as ever, his attention to creative detail is apparent in every measure and minuscule production choice — well exemplified by his delicate backing vocals, which add tenderness to tracks like the mercurial “Tunnel (all that you had).”
The cultivation of road-worn musicians exploring brand-new sounds, toolsets, and thematic concepts, Ice Melt sees the band pushing themselves into territory they could never have anticipated five years ago. When the pandemic began, changing the ways we relate to each other and to the world, Crumb were halfway through recording the project. The severity of lockdown lent an unmistakable, and irrevocable, weight to the thematic threads that course through Ice Melt — themes of disconnection and dislocation, of changing shape and experiencing new states of being. There is also, despite it all, peace — deep, beautiful relief — the unspeakable euphoria of safety, of taking a step forward and knowing the ground will catch you.
Ice Melt is the follow up to Crumb’s critically-acclaimed debut Jinx, and includes the previously-released singles “Trophy,” “Balloon” and “BNR.” The band teased the album earlier this month with a billboard on LA’s Sunset Boulevard composed of all their past project covers.