Crystal Castles

by Oliver Rose

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From the cryptic, drug-addled opening of their buoyant debut to the bleeding, ethereal waves of 2016’s Amnesty I, Crystal Castles’ development is as fascinating as it is ugly. On Sunday 13th November, they play Exeter’s Lemon Grove. Whatever you do, don’t miss it.

Visceral, cryptic and utterly bizarre, the Canadian duo comprise of multi-instrumentalist Ethan Kath and a new, mononymous vocalist called Edith (stand-in for the loudly-departed Alice Glass). Their sound is epic; eclectic; violent. Broadly respected as dealers of death in the demise of first wave electroclash, Crystal Castles’ wonky synth-pop is grossly rough around the edges and distorted to its sordid core. The Pixies of underground electronica, their eponymous first record blended zingy analogue textures with abrasive themes and aggressive, shrieked vocals – like a sort of AWOL digi-punk sound, but more unabashedly cruel on the ears. Later, on LPs II and III, this formula was honed into an altogether darker beast; on tracks like the bit-crushed Doe Deer and the cascading Vietnam, the band draw on goth-rock and new romantic textures, evolving the precious dichotomy of their daggers-at-the-disco debut into a vile onslaught of gorgeously thick digital noise. On this year’s album, Kath’s taken a shoegazing approach; the mixes are ambient, droning and wavy. Critics and fans aren’t sure if they like it yet, but it’s certainly different – and it’d be disingenuous to pretend that experimentalism isn’t a welcome trait in anti-bands like this.

Live, we can’t be sure what to expect. This tour, Edith’s debut outing, represents Crystal Castles’ first without the ephemeral and fastidiously rabid Alice Glass. Assuming her replacement can cut the mustard however, there should be plenty of kicking, screaming and miserable dancing. It’ll be fascinating to experience the duo in a space as intimate as the Lemmy, that’s for sure – this a band who have torn up festival grounds with their uncompromising musical barbarism. I’m just dying to see what carnage they’ll excite here in Exeter.