Right from the start of Sister Crayon's Bellow, the California group gives a clear sign of just how mixed and newly synthesized so much from the past has become in more recent hands. From Terra Lopez's vocals, which could have worked on moody early-'80s post-punk as well as appearing on a bill with Little Dragon and the Knife, to the often minimal, slippery arrangements by the group as a whole -- electronic, spacious, ghosts of glitch up against hints of dub -- Sister Crayon manage an evolving balance throughout. While their time is clearly in the present, they don't quite sound like they're chasing any particular trend; it's more that they've found a melding of points that are good to start with. A song like "Anti-Psalm" -- feeling like a mirror version of a creepily paranoid early-'80s AOR number in a serene, ghostly setting -- almost immediately contrasts with "Thief-Boxer, Asleep," its opening minute nothing but Lopez's vocals against buried, grinding guitar. Except that's suddenly complemented by a delicate main arrangement that could be from a long-lost Too Pure group like Long Fin Killie or Pram, at least until the buried metal riffing fully kicks in toward the end. Their understatement in general means that when they suddenly leap out further, as with the inclusion of strings toward the end of "(In) Reverse," or when Lopez's massed backing vocals go against her lead on "Stem," the effect is entrancing. Sometimes it's all in the addition of a particular member -- when Nicholas Suhr's drums take the lead on "Every Third Hour," the sudden crackle of new energy is perfectly placed. The shimmering build of "And Glass…," especially from slow-building verse to soaring chorus, as well as the inclusion of soft backing male vocals in counterpoint to Lopez's lead toward the end -- is a spectacular moment, one of many on this excellent release.
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AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett