Gavin Russom, the longtime DFA signee, known to his cohorts as "the wizard" due to his penchant for handcrafting analog instruments, did two years at Bard College studying music theory, and has been making minimalist, interstellar jams in one iteration or another ever since. An essential part of the LCD Soundsystem live experience, Russom is a man who takes music seriously, and knows more about the mechanics of what he does than even your most dedicated connoisseur. For all his high concepts, though, he's had trouble translating his ideas into appealing music. His latest offering with vocalist and visual artist Viva Ruiz, the disco-house hybrid the Crystal Ark just isn't consistently interesting, an unfortunate fact for fans of DFA, who, along with the label's characteristic sheen, expect memorable songs like the ones they get from Shit Robot and Holy Ghost!.
Though everything on the group's self-titled debut is well-engineered, with track segments that sound practiced, and clear, the songs are often discombobulated and repetitive. Songs that go on for seven or eight minutes in order to heighten excitement simply drag when there isn't much excitement to be had. That isn't to say that the music isn't technically good or at least precise. The best track here, "Morir Soñando", is a funky head-nodder, powered by a springy baseline and trance-inducing verses on which Ruiz, along with back-up vocalists Jaiko Suzuki and Sokhna Mabin, chants about a romantic dream of love, paradise, and a land beyond. It's a dusky nighttime romp with enough thematic development to distract from relative musical stasis.