Perversely timed for a summer release, Cristal's digital album Apostate might be the most disturbing recording you'll hear during the summer of 2012 (it's also being made available from the FSS Bandcamp page on a pay-what-you-want basis). In developing the album material, the group—Gregory Darden, Jimmy Anthony, and LaBradford member Bobby Donne—shared ideas digitally before the album's three sections emerged, each of them comprised of sub-sections. A thirty-nine-minute follow-up to Homegoing, the trio's 2010 FSS release, Apostate carves out a macabre path through multiple dronescapes of varying intensity levels.
After opening in ambient-gloom mode, “I. 1.Without Water 2. April (reprise) 3. Sutta 4. Dormition 5. Muezzin 6. Manse, the Nighthawked” segues into a gentler episode that's in turn supplanted by foreboding string atmospherics and the muffled call of a muezzin, the crier whose vocalizing summons Muslims to prayer. Changes occur rapidly, the music never staying in any one place too long, until the sixth part settles in for an extended exercise in blurry dronescaping big enough to swallow entire towns whole. A subtle Gothic quality characterizes “II. 1. Oscines 2. Last in the Heights 3. Dormition (reprise) 4. Bels,” an impression especially evident when muffled bell tones emerge midway through the piece, after which “III. 1. Burn Witch, Ye Sin 2. Betrayals 3. April” presents a more harrowing series of set-pieces. The opening section is actually less unhinged than one might expect in its evocation of the violent madness inherent in witch-burning; if anything, it's the second part that's more aggressive as it points Cristal's sound in the direction of industrial scene-painting. Its intensity makes the relative peacefulness of the closing piece's third part all the more welcome.No review of the album would be complete without clarifying that an apostate is someone who abandons his religion, party, or cause, and Cristal's album certainly conveys the impression of godlessness. Certainly there's room enough in our world for that, even when the temperature outside is at peak summertime levels.