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Crystal Fighters - Gaia and Friends (Review)

Crystal Fighters, Gaia and Friends

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

CRYSTAL Fighters describe Gaia & Friends, their new album, as a “snapshot of time and a chapter of music” created across continents, with a crew of collaborators and with a clear message at its heart.

Frontman Sebastian Pringle elaborates further: “Our music represents the coming together of people and spirits in one place, and we see that as an analogy of life itself. We’re all together in this one big concert that is life. Our music is a celebration of life.”

Hence, featured on the record are the Chilean singer-songwriter Soledad Vélez, Colombian superstars Bomba Estéreo and South Africa’s Petite Noir, alongside interludes, samples and field recordings captured by the band on their travels across four continents.

The ensuing collection of songs does, indeed, have a multi-cultural vibe, as well as a sunshine appeal that, for the most part, is life affirming.

Admittedly, some of the samples and interludes are a little frustrating and tend to break up the album’s overall momentum. But when it comes down to the songs, there’s plenty to love.

Former single Wild Ones, for instance, drops an infectious calypso style percussion and a euphoric chorus with lines such as “tell me how long, can this go on, like we’re floating in the arms of God , with the wild ones, with the wild ones, and we rage on, ‘til we’re blazing in the sun”. The ‘la la’ harmonies add an extra layer of sunshine hospitality. But knowingly so. It’s a song designed to make you feel giddy and good about yourself.

Another Level, meanwhile, conjures a samba spirit and a Caribbean festival vibe all in one. It endears from the outset, with lines like “pretty bird sing the sweetest song” and “flowers growing every colour of the rainbow, got me going like a hot volcano”. And that’s before the deliriously chirpy chorus. You can’t help but feel good. If not, then check yourself for a pulse!

Goin’ Harder, another former taster track, has a zany electronic loop and a club thumping set of beats that make it the hardest dance track on the LP. Bomba Estereo contributes some vocals that add some urban edge. But while this is perhaps one of the more volatile offerings, the emphasis is still on making you go dance crazy.

But throughout the LP, the songs are designed to offer maximum uplift, as evidenced by the harmonic opening of debut track Runnin’, which drop sweet beats and mandolin licks with bittersweet vocals that eventually blossom into something more celebratory (a track about enjoying success while it lasts).

The Get Down, meanwhile, is the pinnacle of the album’s happiness. Opening amid some hopelessly feel-good whistling and yet another sunshine party vibe, this eventually reaches a chorus that declares “out of my mind with my friends getting wasted, dancing to songs that we know from the radio”. It’s so, so, happy that you can’t help but allow the day’s worries to fade away for its three and a half minute run-time.

The spirit of Costa Rica is self-consciously evident in the slightly more experimental Costa Rica (featuring Nahli), but it still engages, while the Soledad Velez featuring All Of It also drops a slightly moodier vibe but remains likeable, offering some respite from that party spirit. It proves Crystal Fighters can mix things up and embrace musical styles on their globe-trotting exploits.

Final track Reborn, meanwhile, ends things on a more reflective, laidback note, easing you into the sunset (or the midnight hour) with a bittersweet offering that gives a final pause for thought. It touches on feelings of uncertainty and rap-speaks some of its more questioning elements. But while certainly a break-up song that taps into a keen sense of loss, there’s also a sense of hope that stems from the name of the song, as well as the nature of the chorus.

Gaia and Friends is a life-affirming, often beautiful and mostly upbeat listen that deserves an embracing audience.

Download picks: The Get Down, Wild Ones, Runnin’, Reborn, Goin’ Harder, Another Level

Listen to Wild Ones

Listen to Runnin’

Listen to The Get Down

Track listing:

  1. Runnin’
  2. Remolino Icarito feat. Allison Sleator
  3. The Get Down
  4. Costa Rica feat. NAHLI
  5. Txalamantra feat. Ugarte Anaiak
  6. Wild Ones
  7. All of It feat. Soledad Vélez
  8. One String
  9. Another Level
  10. Lift Up
  11. All My Love x Feed Me Edit
  12. Hope feat. Miller Blue
  13. Goin’ Harder feat. Bomba Estéreo
  14. Reborn