Live Review: Crystal Castles
One from the archives! My first live review, written last year. For the record, it remains the best show I’ve ever been to.
Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton, 11.10.10
Canadian duo Ethan Kath and Alice Glass of Crystal Castles have always been divisive. If nothing else, their 2008 debut album signified their intent: electro experimentation built on 8 bit samples and infectious beats, to drive you on a complex emotional and sensory rollercoaster. The distorted vocals added another layer of either unlistenable noise or depth depending on your viewpoint. The second effort however, showed undoubted progression and variety, honing the beast of noise to create tighter sounds. One element remaining decidedly unrestrained however Alice; whose mysterious persona is has been encouraged – a figure embodying an immeasurable number of things on stage yet remaining silent to the media.
Bearing these contradictions in mind it somehow made perverse sense that a figure typifying subversion and non conformity, was playing at a venue which by day was a religious edifice. Smoke machines were on full blast before darkness fell and strobe lights took control. The uncomfortable Fainting Spells accompanied what can only be described as a Terminator style entrance. Anticipation reaching fever pitch I was without warning fighting for my life as Alice launched into the aptly titled Baptism. Submerged under the crowd I found myself experiencing moments of extreme euphoria and paralysing fear, similar to the feeling in that last exam which you haven’t revised enough for; all the while battling the disorientating strobe effects.
The set list contained a mixture of classics such as Alice Practice, Air War and Courtship Dating. Tracks from the second record, with the exception of Doe Deer, offered a reprieve from these bruising numbers, adding much needed balance to proceedings. Whilst criticism has been levied at Alice’s screamed delivery from musical purists; efforts such as Celestica and Intimate are house driven, instantly changing the mood to one of softer euphoria; exposing Alice’s mellow singing voice. Regardless, it is unfair to judge the performance solely on vocal criteria. The live performance is multi-dimensional, more so than any other gig I have been to. Ethan’s beats act as the fundamental base; crucially built upon by the lighting and Alice’s wild stage performance. Her role cannot be overstated, she symbolises the complexity of music in material form; flying around the stage, offering herself to the crowd. Suddenly, facing a wall of bodies; Alice on top, I find her grabbing my arm as they fall, ‘fucking wild’ she says. My black eye agrees.