Tentacles, the debut full-length from Long Beach’s Crystal Antlers, opens with a looping keyboard sound, but if you think this is going to be some kind of electronic album, you’re in for a shock. Soon, vintage organ bass enters the picture and then manic, crashing drums and a little guitar. That’s the opening track, a brief instrumental called “Painless Sleep.” The painful wakeup comes next on “Dust,” with bassist-vocalist Jonny Bell’s anguished screams. Again, the music is a kind of death struggle between Victor Rodriguez’s organ and Kevin Stuart’s drums. (Stuart has an unfair advantage because Damian Edwards adds extra percussion.)
If, after a few songs like this, you think you’ve got a handle on what Crystal Antlers is trying to do — a kind of hardcore/garage psychedelia hybrid — they change course with an ambient wash of sound at the end of “Vapor Trail.” But don’t relax yet — that song is followed by the title track, easily the noisiest and most frenetic yet. It’s not that Antlers can’t settle on a style; their style is to leave you unsettled. The sounds frighten and confuse you, pummeling you into submission, and then gently caress you.
The press has been raving about Crystal Antlers, with Rolling Stone breathlessly comparing the band to Japanese noise-rock, kraut rock, and John Coltrane. It’s easy to see why: Tentacles makes a lot of sense right now. These are scary, confusing, fast-moving times. Maybe we need a band that can reflect those qualities and still be able to slow down at the right time, giving us the feeling that everything will be okay.
The Constantines and I Was a King also perform.
CRYSTAL ANTLERS: The Casbah, Tuesday, June 9, 8:30 p.m. 619-232-4355. $12.