On Lazer Crystal's debut, MCMLXXX, the Chicago trio mixes jagged electro-rock and soaring synth pop with cybernetic ease. Their detached cool and hard-hitting beats will remind savvy listeners of the band’s labelmates Trans Am, but the men of Lazer Crystal aren’t as preoccupied with philosophical concerns and concepts; their songs are sleek and dancefloor-ready. Two-thirds of the band also play in Mahjongg, another group fond of robotic vocals, beats so tricky they sound like only a machine could play them (even if it really is a human behind the kit at least some of the time), and big, bad synths. However, Lazer Crystal’s take on this is much darker and more frantic, especially on the songs that the band already released as singles. “Hot Pink BMX” is a hyper rush of vocoders and zigzagging synths; “Lipp Service” opens the album with a jacking beat so intense that anyone trying to dance to it risks dislocating something; and though “Love Rhombus” slows things down, its fusion of Giorgio Moroder ambience and Nine Inch Nails icy eroticism is anything but warm and fuzzy. While songs like “Translation? (We R Afraid 4 You)” and the epic finale “2029”’s future funk show that Lazer Crystal have their vicious-beats-and-vocoders formula down, the band spends nearly as much time expanding on it. “Lame Duck” updates the stylish doom of Gary Numan and Berlin-era Bowie with tweaking and hiccupping synths, while “La Rouche” overruns its bright, simple melody with an onslaught of electronics that sounds like a data panic. At times like this, it feels like Lazer Crystal are trying to sabotage their very real accessibility, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing -- those who already love this kind of dense, geeky-yet-chic music will find a lot to like here.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares