Live Music + Gig Reviews

Crystal Castles + Dan Deacon @ Corsica Studios, London

28 August 2007

Crystal Castles

Crystal Castles

Tonight’s double bill offered filthy electro in bountiful quantities. Buzzy Canadian bleep terrorists Crystal Castles‘ MySpace page announces their genres as “Thrash / Thrash / Thrash”. Support act Dan Deacon, on his first UK tour and whose birthday it was, makes music that’s been labelled everything from “absurdist electro” to “future shock”.

What a splendidly evocative place Corsica Studios is in which to witness them. Everything in the Elephant & Castle venue has a temporary, just-about-built look and the feel that it can’t quite be legal – the bar, the A4 signposts, the whitewashed walls. But it oozes atmosphere, with two performance spaces joined up by dingy half-finished corridors and a back terrace area to cool down in. If the health & safety people have seen it, maybe they were slipped a little something to keep quiet. What it was before is open to speculation – something murky, perhaps.

In the smaller of the two rooms Baltimore’s Dan Deacon, resplendent in Timmy Mallett style glasses and an increasingly sodden t-shirt, introduced himself as “the support act” and caused immediate laughter from the audience as he blurted out nonchalant witticisms, giving the crowd a pre-taster of his eccentric music, or rather dazzling bass-heavy noise, to come. He performed intimately amongst his audience in the centre of the room with no stage – this was a new definition of up close and personal. Those not lucky enough to be near the front could find solace in the strobe-powered Hallowe’en-green skull looming over the set – a high-powered focus for going insane. At times there were reminders of Enter Shikari‘s video for Sorry You’re Not A Winner, but wackier. Or a little more psychotic.

With the bass up so high that the floor, doors and ceiling shook, the packed room’s flailing occupants were being blown away by a rabid, frantic noise as Deacon twisted dials, pushed buttons and hammered keys. Occasionally he would yowl down a microphone too, words all but lost in the cacophony. His lyrics were so awful as to be fantastic. For the last song, Wham City, the audience were passed sheets of music for singalong, just in case they’d not felt involved already. So what we have is trashy speed-drum-n-bass, garnished in exquisite droplets of language such as: “Out of the fountain flows gold/ Into a huge hand /That handsa (sic) held by a bear/ Who has a sick band.” Drugs? Maybe this guy is drugs.

Deafened, bemused and curiously ecstatic, we ambled through to the other room for Toronto’s Crystal Castles, a band apparently adored by Klaxons. Apart from playing what seemed to be an extremely short set they impressed like lightning, but with a different kind of attitude. They may not have had an über cool flashing skull, but they did look like a more frightening version of the Ku Klux Klan, with green pointy bag things over two-thirds of their heads. Their MySpace page claims their influences involve murder and knives. You can see where they’re coming from.

On stage, bag-less lynchpin Alice screamed words down a microphone which muffle-mixed in with techno-thrash and the sound of a thousand ancient Nintendos and Ataris being horribly abused. They have something of The Knife‘s eerieness about them – perhaps their refusal to reappear for an encore, despite howls of audience protest, was because too much Crystal Castles can overwhelm the soul. Whatever, don’t judge until they’ve scared you in the flesh.

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