Midnight Juggernauts - The Crystal Axis

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Fans of Melbourne live dance trio Midnight Juggernauts should’ve known change was in the air when last year the group released the holdover single This New Technology. That track, which makes a reappearance on the new record The Crystal Axis, was a bold departure from the (relatively) straight-forward synth-rock which the ‘Juggernauts had perfected on their 2007 debut LP Dystopia, with the band bouncing back to the scene with a curveball mixture of organ-driven Kraut rock and extended instrumental jams. Setting the tone for what was ahead, the just released The Crystal Axis finds the ‘Juggernauts experimenting even more and tripping further deeper into the cosmos.

Having spent a year overseas on the road following Dystopia’s release, it’s apparent that Midnight Juggernauts came home with adjusted priorities and a renewed zeal for sonic exploration. Whereas Dystopia offered an album of very immediate and often poppy electronic indie, The Crystal Axis never settles in one place or on one sound, with the Melbourne boys showing their winning ambition with an album that’s as dense and diverse as it is engrossing.

Seemingly unconcerned with ‘fitting in’ to any particular movements or genres, The Crystal Axis finds the ‘Juggernauts letting loose their stylistic indulgences and showing impressive dexterity on tracks like Lara Vs The Savage Pack with its irrepressible percussion groove and psych guitar riffs, Cannibal Freeway with its would-be John Carpenter instrumental intro, or album closer Fade To Red which soars on looping keyboards and double tracked vocals.

Although this is the band testing their limits – perhaps best seen with the guitar and grooves freakout at the climax of The Great Beyond – Midnight Juggernauts haven’t abandoned all of their crowd-friendly moves and Dystopia fans should rest easy knowing that the group still have a knack for excellent, ear-wormy hooks. In particular, sure-to-be single Lifeblood Flow floats along with pristine synth atmospherics and an instantaneous chorus, and current hit Vital Signs balances the band’s pop craftsmanship with their new-found penchant for drum circles and backwards guitar parts.

Despite there being no one song that sounds like the one before it on the record, The Crystal Axis is still remarkably flowing, each part unfolding a little wider the more time that one puts into it. In that regard, The Crystal Axis shares some similarities with Dystopia and its start-to-finish homage to the album format. Yet it blows Dystopia out of the water in terms of scope, ambitious sonic terrain and what really feels like importance, which is no easy feat. One can only wonder what galaxy the next Midnight Juggernauts album will travel to.

The Crystal Axis is out now on Siberia Records via Inertia.

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