The same paths are trodden, but Ice Melt is still a very enjoyable listen.
For those who have followed Crumb since their debut EP five years ago, there’s little disappointment in their commitment to stylistic consistency. The four-piece’s nourishing psychedelic embrace is continually difficult to ignore and even harder to resist – it’s easy, non-combative and adaptable.
But in terms of listeners who yearn for readily identifiable evolution, Crumb can be a bittersweet devotion. This isn’t to say that artists should be judged on and beholden to consistent departures from a trademarked sound, but there comes a point where a shake-up becomes a necessity. For Crumb, Ice Melt might be the final hurrah for their traditional sound.
The grooves and melodies that characterise their independence are, as ever, omnipresent and delightful. Add the deadpan vocals Lila Ramani into the mix and you’re left with a never fail recipe. ‘Gone’ pays tribute to their essence in sound, a blissful centrepiece that, despite its textural minimalism, carries a fulfilling nature. ‘Seeds’ is also one straight from the playbook, and works well.
Crumb’s future may be defined by further experimentations in upping the pace or increasing the density of their output. Or both. Ice Melt shines in its most outlandish and direct moments. The opening track ‘Up and Down’ brings together sparse electronics and Crumb’s more traditional ideas wonderfully before descending into an oppressive trip-hop beat. It’s very reminiscent of Warpaint, but is certainly an avenue that Crumb can explore astutely.
Elsewhere, ‘Balloon’ shines with a percussive nod to jazz and a dance-influenced chorus , while ‘Retreat!’ powers through the mellow personality of the album to deliver a powerful and driving force led by other-worldly guitar interludes.
Ice Melt is strong and provides an enticing preview for Crumb’ return to the live scene. But it does leave you pondering as to where Crumb will choose to go next. If sticking to their guns is their way to go, a method which, in fairness, seems to have provided sustainable levels of acclaim, then they could easily follow that route.
There comes a risk of their sound becoming a little predictable, however, and there will come a point where Ramani and co. have to depart in some way. Not anything radical as such, but to the point where direct comparisons with their early works are difficult to make and a clear shift is obvious. But for the present moment, Ice Melt will more than suffice.