Crystal Castles, Brixton Academy, London
Friday 25 February 2011
A wall of dirty synths and intense strobe lights descends upon the crowd as vocalist Alice Glass hobbles onto the stage. It seems that a broken ankle – sustained in Tokyo in January's segment of the tour to promote the Toronto duo's second eponymous album, Crystal Castles (II) – is not enough to hold her back.
The characteristic chaos and nihilism of Crystal Castles' electro-dance pushes the crowd to extremes from the off. Gnashing vocals on the grating "Fainting Spells" are quickly balanced by the pain-relieving familiarity of the bubblegum dance synths of "Baptism", creating a formula for highs and lows used throughout the set, which prevents the music's incessant force from overwhelming or becoming dull.
Backed by the hooded figure of band founder Ethan Kath, who stands in the shadows behind the decks, Glass's punk roots are on full display. She is a ceaseless whirlwind of energy as she brandishes the crutch in her left hand at the crowd. The only dampener is that Glass's screeches, unbelievable as it may seem, have not been levelled loud enough. However, judging from the fog of sweat that rises from the pulsing crowd, the fans still approve.
Highlights come in the form of the mangled retro-computer-game electronica of "Empathy" and "Alice Practice", which features vocals from Glass's first sound check when unwittingly recording for the band's first album. The song is now easily one of the most popular of the set.
The ender comes in the shape of the anthemic "I'm Not in Love" usually featuring The Cure's Robert Smith. This is the song that much of the tail end of the crowd have come to see, but Glass's voice proves too harsh for the melancholic modern ballad, and her timing is off, prompting many to leave before the song ends. It's no matter to the barrier-clingers, whose screams of appreciation during the encore's "Untrust Us", give even Glass a run for her money.
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