> Album Review - Crystal Pleasures by Faex Optim - SNACK: Music, film, arts and culture magazine for Scotland

Album Review – Crystal Pleasures by Faex Optim

The previous work of Edinburgh producer Wesley MacDonald has erred on the side of fuzzy and woozy ambience, to the point where there was a rumour going around that he was Boards of Canada operating under an alias. This album, his first since 2020’s Let’s Pretend, is a huge step in a crisper and more upfront direction, with the keys and beats to the fore. Opener ‘Wester Hailes’ features a cut-up vocal from Cholly and an ecstatic piano line that recalls the work of 90s pioneers like Orbital; ‘Came In Screaming’ features a house-y click drum that demands a big, bassy club speaker. There’s a clarity to it, a sense of purpose and drive.

There’s a theme running through here, too, about somnambulism and dreams and the tricks of the subconscious. There are samples pulled from PSAs about night terrors in children and a kind of apocalyptic free association, under the glitchy doof of ‘Great Balloons’, that pulls the listener into an uncertain world: a Lynchian question of dreamers and dreams and where the mind leads us when we let it.



The atmospherics of the artist’s earlier records are all here, but they’re more punchy than punch-drunk, more steady on their feet. The fractured mathematical riffs of ‘Wash & Play’ are an irresistible, physical push on the head and the hips.

Closing track ‘Candescence’ builds a rattling rack of cymbals and snare into a dynamic climax that drops out to a euphoric fall of glassy synths, a hands-in-the-air moment of pure clarity after the crepuscular rushes of the previous tracks. There’s a journey through the night here, a memory bubbling up transformed; a sense that the mind is trying to guide us to some unseen conclusion. And if that conclusion is to damn it all to hell and get up on the dance floor, then that’s all the better.


Crystal Pleasures is out now

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