Crystal Understanding
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Crystal Understanding

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This band has not uploaded any videos



"Recorded Reviews"

Crystal Understanding - Hold the Gem
Recorded, engineered, mixed and mastered by Michael Potvin at PTVN's Studio in Cambridge, MA

Some old cartoon meant to turn kids onto classical music explains how Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” is arranged — how each instrument is meant to play the part of a character such as the bird, the cat and so on. Aaron Bennett and Sonya Sheats of Crystal Understanding (as well as full-on production artist Michael Potvin) must have seen this cartoon and taken subsequent notes — Hold the Gem is as colorfully arranged and richly orchestrated as Prokofiev himself may have been if he had access to Potvin’s technology and wizardry.

Hold the Gem doesn’t play from the speakers/headphones so much as it blankets the brain in sweet sounds and soft textures. Bennett and Sheats serve as vocal guides in this soft-focus cartoon world of bells, bleeps, and blips. Sheats adds a human element to the record with the clearness of her soft-yet-direct vocals and earnestly stated sentiment in tracks like “Premature Baby.” This track showcases reassuring lines like, “If you cry, baby, we’ll know that you’re alive.” Hold the Gem is full of this sort of mechanized sentiment — more human than machine, but colored by a distinctly robotic nature, reflected in the album’s grid-y production. The duo is also prone to quizzical nonsense that quickly turns personal, as in “In the Cave.” Bennett and Sheats never sound lost in the machines — rather, the band basks in the creative possibilities of technology. The strongest aspects of Hold The Gem are its many faces; tracks like “Yellow” showcase a frenetic pace, while “World With No Windows” sports an eerily calm build at the track’s core. Crystal Understanding delivers quicker and with more personable service than that of their Postal Service-influenced peers with a record that is uniquely beautiful in its mechanization, as well as its stark humanity. (Self-released)

-C.D. Di Guardia - Northeast Performer Magazine

"Crystal Understanding"

crystal understanding - world with no windows

We read about Crystal Understanding over at Big Stereo, and we sort of immediately fell in love with this song, which brings to mind the cuteness of the Blow. But even more winsome and childlike and innocent. - Gorilla Vs Bear (Blog)

"Hotline: Crystal bash will be ‘Gem’"

Hotline: Crystal bash will be ‘Gem’
By Michael Marotta
Friday, May 11, 2007 - Updated: 04:00 AM EST

Most bands host an album release party at usual nightspots around town, creating a like-minded three- or four-band bill and inviting the standard assortment of friends, family and fans.
Then there are other bands, most of which fly under the mainstream radar, that throw their confetti-drunk album-release celebration in some obscure artist’s loft on the other side of town and the only way people find out about it is after-the-fact in a two-page glossy print Nylon Magazine pictorial. And usually, someone’s either rocking out in their underwear or a bear costume.
Crystal Understanding is one of those bands, and its creative-times-infinity release party for debut disc “Hold the Gem” goes down Saturday night at the Chinatown performance loft known as the Ark (keenly located in the 3rd space at 17 Edinboro St.; doors open at 9 p.m.).

The experimental lo-fi electro darlings of a blossoming Boston electronic music scene, Crystal Understanding knows the importance of having a sterling visual component accompany its beat-heavy and synth-laced sounds. The 3-year-old male/female project of Aaron Bennett and Sonya Sheats often teeters on the increasingly blurred line between performance art and melodic techno.
“We’re going to deck the place out in special Crystal Understanding party gear - big hand-strewn banners, light installations in the windows, some painted panels and a bunch of other crazy stuff,” Bennett said.
The evening also features a one-night-only performance from undead zombie rappers Z.W.A., and DJ sets by Mark E. Moon and Thunderdome’s MicL PTVN, more commonly known as Michael Potvin, beat master behind local bands Cassette and the Campaign for Real Time, and who just happened to record, mix and master “Hold the Gem” over two years at his home studio. “It’ll be a bona-fide dance party after the performances,” Bennett said. But we suspect the dance party will start even earlier.Go to
- Boston Herald

"Mp3 of the week: Crystal Understanding"

We have a general rule: hippies and sequencers don't mix. But, as blog nerds have discovered via the already-web-famous track "World with No Windows," Crystal Understanding’s Aaron and Sonya have become a weird, sweet exception. The duo is aligned with the local shit-pop cabal Compound 440r, and like most C440r groups it forsakes (sez their bio) "the usual trappings of rockitude, replacing guitars and basses with handmade claves, computerized beats, and power feelings." Power feelings! For what it’s worth, CU rhymes with VU, and depending on how much hash you smoke, you might come to theorize that their DIY electro steez shares more conceptual turf with no-wave and new age (no-age?) than with your average retard-disco knockoff. Paper Rad's Jacob Ciocci designed the cover of CU's new Hold the Gem, and CU's music offers kind of sonic rhyme to Paper Rad's design philosophy: to wit, a proto-psychedelic digitalia that finds in raw primitivism the pulsating elements of supernatural euphoria. Thanks to Campaign for Real Time/We Are Cassette synth wizard MicL Ptvn, "Power Feelings" has just enough polish to keep from spoiling the cumulative hypnotic effect of Casio presets, boy-girl vox, and shamanistic intentions.

CD Release party not to be missed: Saturday night at the Ark, accompanied by Zombies with Attitude and DJ Mark E. Moon. Info here. - Boston Phoenix

"Noisy Neighbors"




You can’t really have a local music rodeo without repping Somerville’s knob-crazy collective Compound 440R—and while the occupants of said noisy complex exhibit a great deal of diversity between their acts, the no-frills, lo-fi floor-fillers that populate this debut full-length from Crystal Understanding are about as close to a mission statement from the gang as you’re likely to get. Catchy as hell, gritty as you’d like it and, well, just frickin’ adorable. [MB] - The Weekly Dig


Crystal Understanding EP
No Limit EP
Hold the Gem full-length cd
tracks for three compilations called "Compound 440R: Local Collections" (2005, 2006, 2007)
Timmy and Tammy Re-Mixed on We Rock Like Crazy, December 2007


Feeling a bit camera shy


Crystal Understanding is Aaron and Sonya, who celebrate the unraveling of the world by creating electronic pop gems with free software and an eye to the impermanent. Their story is one of hand-crafted outfits, harmonic strobe lights, pushing hard, and crawling like spiders through world wide webs.

They first caught some eyes in 2002 with the video for "Timmy and Tammy", which the global typographic community put on their blog. Then, after developing a live show and recording an album, the sweetness of "World With No Windows" was found to be irresistible by taste-makers like Big Stereo and Gorilla Vs. Bear.

Their new album, "Hold the Gem," features the production work of local DJ, synth-artist, and man-about-town Michael Potvin, cover art by Jacob Ciocci of Paperrad, and a drawing of a robotic skeleton horse by Cantabrigian occultist Steward Maufus.