One of the amazing things about psych-rock is its sense of balance. It walks the line between beauty and terror with aplomb. Complete with ’70s nostalgia and loads of silicon fuzz, New York wonder kids Ista have stumbled onto some magic with their new single Crystalize.
Beginning with a half-time jam, one of the things that stands out is just how committed the band is to reinterpreting the sounds of ’70s rock. From the modernized “coke drum” sound to the Farfisa organ that adds gorgeous textures to this song, Ista has done their homework. And yet, this does not feel like a wearied revisiting of past musical landscapes.
On the contrary, Crystalize has the vibrancy, energy, and longing for a better world that has characterized the latter half of the 2010s.
Psych-rock often relies too heavily on creating a massive sound. Swirling textures and symphonic overtures are undoubtedly cool, but they can make a song feel almost too bloated. Ista don’t fall into that trap. They keep the arrangements reined in, allowing the focus of the listener to dwell on the guitar harmonies. And they are plenty!
Even in the rhythm tracks, there are little harmonies that peek out from behind the fuzz. Likewise, the solos are chock full of tasty harmonies and licks that will delight the listener over and over again.
Ista has described this track as a “cosmic love song to life with notes of longing, clarity and praise.” I don’t know about the rest of you, but it’s been almost a year now since I’ve entered a rock club or seen live music. Songs like Crystalize are vital to our psyche in this pandemic; they help us to feel that we are still connected to a long, glorious rock ‘n’ roll tradition that stretches back decades.
If you’re feeling bewildered about the lack of live music in your life, turn on this song. I can almost guarantee you that your brain will fill in the smells of sweat and booze, and the sounds of 60 cycle hum and the dull roar of the audience. Let the music of Ista transport you back to the good ol’ days while simultaneously peering ahead to the better ones yet to come.
Check out an exclusive interview with the band:
No worries if you want to keep your secrets, but was this track recorded live? It feels so tight. If it wasn’t tracked live, y’all managed to mimic that cohesion so well!
The drums, bass and initial scratch guitar track were all recorded live. After the rhythm section was laid down, the rest of the composition was multi-tracked on top. Other than a few exceptions, that’s been the general method for our recording process with these tunes.
Was there any special gear that you relied on to create the sounds in this song?
Other than a couple different fuzz pedals for the guitars I’d say it was for the most part blessed by our producer’s (Sam Cohen) magic touch and tools from the helm of his sonic laboratory. He’s always routing through plenty of outboard gear (analog preamps/compressors/mixer/etc) to warm up, strengthen and enhance the signal at source.
You described Crystalize as a kind of “cosmic love song.” Could you talk more about that?
In terms of Crystalize as a “cosmic love song” It’s meaning is basically twofold. Lyrically, it’s a kind of affirmational anthem or ode to the sensation of feeling intimately and unconditionally connected to one’s own body, it’s experience and surroundings, the elements of nature and macrocosmically, the universe as a whole. Like a love song to the mystery of life and our place within it.
I know that sounds lofty and maybe more than a bit woowoo but hey, it is what it is. On a more grounded note it’s a simple love song that alludes to the sensuous, devotional and sometimes transcendent feelings that arise from the very human experience of being in love and longing to unite with another.
Those “shout it from the rooftops/feel like you can do anything”, honeymoon kind of vibrations. But, at the end of the day it’s whatever meaning the listener takes from it through their own interpretation and experience.
What’s next for Ista?
Other than some upcoming goodies which will be available on the interwebs in the coming weeks, if they follow their ears, folks in the NYC area may be able catch us at a park or street corner on some warm day soon to come in spring.
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