Electronic Duo Crystal Castles Unleash Chaos At the Warfield

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Hands up. Now wave them up and down. Pump your fists into the air. Whip yo' hair. Bust out 'em elbows. Mosh to your heart's content. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the proper decorum for a Crystal Castles concert.

Known for their seizure-inducing light shows, the electronic duo did not disappoint during their set at the Warfield last Friday. Alice Glass' part-screeching and part-melodic vocals, Ethan Kath's mastery of the bass line and the strobe lights' unceasing attack made for a performance that was both a health hazard and the epitome of every raver's dream.

The Crystal Castles invasion was instant and unforgettable. There was no small talk - neither of the two uttered a single word to the audience. Wearing black hoods, they quietly slipped on stage without any showiness and immediately unleashed the cacophonous "Fainting Spells," giving the crowd a taste of the chaos that was to come.

The bombardment of impossibly bright neon colors was painful to stare at yet difficult to look away from, making Crystal Castles' light show the standard by which all other displays should be judged. In certain cases, such as their rendition of "Air War," the patterns were tasteful and synced to match the beat of the music; in others, like "Yes No," reality blurred as the luminous explosion forced everything to move in slow motion. Blinding flashes, burning lights and psychedelic colors all worked in unison to fuck with your vision while the deafening beats successfully ensured that your ears would never be the same again.

With such mind-boggling visuals, it's easy for the band to fade into the background. But Crystal Castles were not one to forgo an opportunity for theatricality. Glass, who had broken her ankle, stubbornly refused doctors' orders and continued to dance around as if nothing was wrong, crutches and all. Her delicate frame worked the stage as she delivered her trademark headbanging, while Kath hunched over the mix board and launched the pulsating beats that fueled the party.

Liking Crystal Castles' music is not a prerequisite for enjoying their live performance. Their strategy is to create a dazzling experience rather than a comprehensive showcase of their songs. Tracks like "Baptism" and "Intimate" proved to be the exception; the effects only bolstered the songs' accessibility. But when it came to pieces like "Doe Deer" - whose blatantly messy discord makes it an odd set list choice - Crystal Castles fed off of the crowd's energy and magnified it in a frenzied showcase, rather than attempt to force the track's hidden charm upon listeners.

Crystal Castles' innovation acts as both a rise to fame and a potential downfall. Their rough, almost-screaming instrumentals create a surprisingly melodic rhythm that made their debut refreshing. But their second album, which was more or less a repeat of the techniques of Crystal Castles, illustrates the temptation of reverting to old tricks. Their struggle to stay relevant, however, becomes less of a challenge, as indicated by their flawless control over their live shows. One of the spare delights of Crystal Castles II is the showcase of Glass' breathy vocals, a stark contrast to her typically eerie shrieks.

The band's set highlighted this ethereal nature, as Glass commanded the stage with her renditions of the dreamy "Celestica" and "Not in Love." Performing with a meticulously engineered execution, Crystal Castles delivered hard-hitting beats with disorienting visuals, ensuring a musical hangover that's hard to shake off.


Cynthia Kang is the lead music critic. Contact her at [email protected]



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