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By Laurie Charles
It's been five years since the L.A.-based duo the Crystal Method unleashed its last album, the Grammy-nominated Legion of Boom. But don't think for a moment that the cats have in any way been idle. "We were sort of busy doing other stuff," says Ken Jordan, half of the group along with Scott Kirkland. That other stuff included a soundtrack album for the movie London, a mixtape called Community Service 2, and a running soundtrack for Apple and Nike called Drive.
And in the meantime, he and Kirkland built their own studio, Crystalworks. "We bought a building and kind of had to tear it apart, and have just been working hard on the new album ever since then," Jordan says. "It seems like five [years], but we're calling it two."
That new album, finally, is the exquisite Divided by Night. Like Boom, the record finds the Crystal Method keeping some great good company. Unlike Boom, which featured Kyuss lead singer John Garcia and Limp Bizkit guitarist Wes Borland, the company they're keeping is a lot less rockist and a lot more moderne. And among the many guests is Metric's Emily Haines.
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"We start to develop a song, and some tracks just really cry out for vocals, certain styles of vocals especially," Jordan says. "And then we just kind of approach people we're really into. Emily came about after we saw a YouTube video of her and an acoustic guitar player from Coachella, I think. She has such an amazing voice." And Haines's contribution, for the song "Come Back Clean," finds the Crystal Method almost giddy with a hope until now unheard-of in any of the band's previous outings.
The pair's teamup with Matisyahu, on the other hand, came about in a whole different manner. "We were playing the Pemberton Festival [in British Columbia] last summer, and his road manager came to our little trailer and said, 'Matisyahu would like to get up onstage with [you],' and we were like, 'Yeah, cool,'" Jordan says. "He threw down some freestyle thing over 'High Roller' and we thought his combination of singing and rapping was really cool, so we sent him a couple things and he killed the song." That song, "Drown in the Now," is the first single on Divided (it also has its own website, drowninthenow.com). And Matisyahu's mood-swung speak-sing flies over the Crystal Method's big breakbeat with a natural élan.
Equally natural-sounding are the contributions from New Order bassist Peter Hook, who low-ends on both the epic "Dirty Thirty" and darkly funky "Blunts and Robots." "We've always been fans of New Order, and we were sort of on tour with them in Australia for the Big Day Out when we talked about him coming in to play. It was something we've always wanted, and it just happened to work out on this album," Jordan says.
All of this doesn't mention the contributions from She Wants Revenge's Justin Warfield, singer/songwriter Meiko, Grandaddy's Jason Lytle, and LMFAO. And when the band is live, Jordan warns, fans should brace for a spectacle. "We haven't been out on the road in a while, so be prepared for a massive video and audio onslaught," he says. "We're pulling out all the stops — a brand-new set design with these lights that no one else can even get."