Ok, lets begin at the start. There is a dolphin on the album cover, actually not just dolphin, but a dolphin with a compact disc in its snout, and it’s the kind of airbrushed impossibly beautiful dolphin that you would expect to see spray painted on the side of a panel van. So maybe that’s all you need to know. How can this not be great?
Crystal are an artificial throwback to the robotic sheen of the 80’s offering up some ridiculously endearing retro futuristic synthetic pop from Japan. There’s something so reassuring about their highly synthetic sound that harks back to the early days of electro pop music. No cliché is too much, guitar solos bristle over impossibly hard beats and Harold Faltermeyer style synth flourishes and if it doesn’t put a smile on your face you are made of stone. This is the sound of every video game you played as a kid, every movie during the 80’s – particularly the saccharine ones, and the entire synth pop movement.
There’s something that Crystal do so well, and that’s using their ridiculous hard earned normality in some really weird ways. Clichés are their launching pad for weirdness. At some point their endless embrace of the 80’s collapses in on itself and it becomes really really strange. They’re at their best on their instrumental pieces or when they robotize their vocals, unfortunately there’s something about their use of human voices that doesn’t quite work to these ears as much as their other pieces – grounding them in a place they don’t need to be. Yet lets be honest. This is a weird aesthetic. It probably is not much of a surprise to learn that two of the tracks here were written with Grammy Award Winner (that was fun to say) Stephen Bruner (Thundercat) who also offered his trademark bass. Reflection Overdrive takes the 80’s into the 2020’s. It’s weird, unexpected, more than likely not right – but ridiculously enjoyable.