by / October 12th, 2010 /

Crystal Castles – The Academy, Dublin

Alice Glass is some force of nature. She’s writhing around the stage exorcist-style, strangling herself with leads as first song ‘Fainting Spells’ gabba beats and waspy synths slice through the strobe-lit Academy. She’ll spend most of the show on her back, kicking her spindly legs, or crawling over the crowd after countless stage-dives. Crystal Castles have taken flak for short gigs in the last few years, but it’s a wonder Glass can keep this caper up for more than five minutes. She does the work so producer Ethan Kath doesn’t have to – he’s taking his usual static position, hoodie up, hunched over his laptop and synths, taking care of business. The drummer’s here to get paid.

Canadians Glass and Kath uploaded themselves into the hipster consciousness in 2007 with a rake of 7” singles, CD-Rs and chaotic live shows, including a gig in Kennedy’s in Dublin that lasted a head-scratching 20 minutes or so. Their two albums (both contrarily called Crystal Castles) channel the digital hardcore of Atari Teenage Riot and the electro nihilism of ADULT. scrambled through an 8-bit mangler – but it’s their snotty live punk theatrics that gob all over most other synth-duos doing the rounds. They’re building up a fair live reputation in Ireland too – they’re no strangers to Dublin and Belfast, and even wrecked the gaff at last month’s Electric Picnic.

The backdrop in the Academy is a close-up of the feral graveyard girl on their second album released this year, but the setlist is spread fairly evenly between both records, with the Gameboy-meets-hardcore rave of ‘Baptism’ an early fist-in-the-air anthem for the crowd. Even on record, professional code-breakers wouldn’t have a clue what the hell Alice is on about, with cryptic lyrics, primitive rapping and all-out wailing buried beneath a tangle of static and lo-fi tape hiss. Live, her vocals are treated even further, meeting Kath’s caustic synth lines head on and fusing into white noise. Even their most ‘melodic’ tracks of the night (‘Courtship Dating’, ‘Crimewave’) whoosh by, compressed to the nth degree between the arcade game riffs of ‘Reckless’ and the glitch punk cacophony ‘Doe Deer’ – the kids won’t glean any subliminal messages from Alice’s words even if they wanted to.

It’s definitely a brazen move to throw in an encore in a gig this short, but at nearly an hour, this is Grateful Dead territory for Crystal Castles, and Glass probably needs to touch up the black eyeliner after knocking heads in the moshpit. After a short break the one-two techno stomp of ‘Untrust Us’ and ‘I Am Made of Chalk’ sends everyone out to face Saturday night with their ears ringing, riled up and ready to bring the ruckus to the nearest club.

Photos by Alessio Michelini.
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