Crumb’s latest album, Ice Melt, continues to advance a sound that only they could have produced. The indie-rock quartet appeared on the scene in the mid 2010s with an eerily defined style that captivated millions through their self-produced EP’s, “Crumb” and “Locket.” Genre labels for Crumb have ranged from lo-fi to psychedelic rock, electronic, and jazz, but there is little point in assigning any of these. Crumb fuses them all into a raw sound that follows an intense trip through the unconscious mind.
Crumb’s excellent musical chemistry, which was clear since their first EPs, has allowed them to take their sound into new directions since their start, and Ice Melt is a great example. Brian Aronow’s jazzy keyboards and synthesizer effects along with Lila Ramani’s indie guitar progressions produce a psychedelic combination of vintage and electronic music, which might explain why they attract so many different music fans. This collaboration lies at the heart of Crumb’s unique sound. Ice Melt showed that the band is getting better at fusing the two elements together.
The album, which was recorded in Los Angeles, also featured twists of funk and dance-floor that are evident in songs like “BNR”, “Retreat!” and “Balloon.” These songs probably gave the band a wider door to experiment with electronic sounds. Aronow’s techno skills on top of funky drums and bass make it hard not to move. And even though this rock disco psychedelia might not have been expected by many, everyone danced when I saw them at the 9:30 Club in Washington D.C. on November 6, 2021. Lila’s powerful psychedelic solos throughout moments of heavy techno was the perfect reminder of Crumb’s orchestra-like ability to fuse together so much sound while remaining true to each song’s unique feeling. It is also worth noting that her presence on stage is simply perfect. The intimacy that’s inherent to Crumb’s music could not be better portrayed by how Lila, quiet and reserved when not playing, brings her personage to life only through her music. It goes hand in hand with the other members’ stage personalities, with Aronow breaking from his concentrated playing into euphorically vibrant saxophone solos from time to time; a truly modern rockstar.
But while Ice Melt shows increased levels of complexity in production and experimentation with different music styles, the band’s core element that captivated so many remains intact, if not enhanced. For starters, those melodies unique to Crumb’s surrealist nature are present in every single song. The opening song of their set, “Up & Down,” is a strong testimonial to Lila’s ability to pierce through introverts’ hearts from the first few notes.
From there, the album just continues to descend listeners deeper and deeper into the alternate fantasy land that only Crumb can take you to. The song, “L.A.” has a fast, bleak, and concise nature that presents a new feeling to Crumb’s varying elements. It is so engaging that I wish Crumb produced a full post-punk album. During “Trophy,” a song with perplexing lyrics and a mystifying melody that, like classic Crumb, makes it inevitable for audiences to contemplate intensely, Nina spoke to the audience for the first of very few times. She asked them to quiet down from the previous Ice Melt songs that had unexpectedly turned the concert into a dance party. The audience did, and Crumb delivered a vivid rendition that made at least me enter in the same trance that I had first explored when I heard Crumb’s first songs.