Canadian Electric Alternative Haunts Fox


Luther Kuefner, Staff Writer

Canadian experimental duo Crystal Castles performed at the Fox Theater in Oakland on April 27. The band is composed of vocalist Alice Glass and producer Ethan Kath, accompanied by a drummer they include for live shows. Despite the chaos between Kath’s 8-bit synths and Glass’ shrieking, the performance had a methodical nature to it.

The 2 opening sets included keyboardist Buried Child and ragtag group Doldrums. Buried Child creates music in a style classified as “witch-house,” focused on creating noise atmospheres. His performance offered a blanket of sound, full of bass and a mess of various synthesizers. Although he had a subdued stage-presence, only accompanied by his keyboard and dream-like lights, he produced a heavy, encompassing sound. The slow, pensive mood set by the music was thwarted by the obnoxious cacophony produced by Doldrums.

Doldrums managed to be sporadic and dull. Although they were full of energy, their music was disorganized, and lacked any sort of artistic merit. Utilizing a music sequencer for vocals, keyboards, and percussion, the storm of sounds weren’t soothing, nor qualified for the stirring energy of a performance. To add to the bizarre nature of their performance, one of the band members performed in the nude.

There was almost an hour between Doldrums’ set and Crystals Castles’ performance. During the setup, English post-punk band Joy Division’s album Closer was played in its entirety. According to music enthusiast Nathaniel Miller, this was fitting because the album is a huge influence on Goth culture, a scene to which Crystal Castles is heavily connected.

Crystal Castles came onstage in black hoodies. When Alice Glass removed her hood, she revealed a blonde hairdo and an explosive stage presence. The show began with the opening track off of their latest album (III), “Plague,” a scathing soundscape that was complemented with a sea of fog and illuminating white lights. The intro meshed into the pulsing “Baptism,” which energized the crowd.

They attracted a diverse fan base, including goths, hipsters, and ravers. The music was uniting, appealing to both rock and electronic fans. The music style reminded me of a combination between Kraftwerk and Yeah Yeah Yeah’s circa Fever To Tell.

The best performances came from arguably their best album to date, (II). “Celestica” seemed to bring an exposed persona from Alice Glass, making it one of the more emotional parts of the set. “Empathy” also created a surprisingly romantic aura. The persistent bass and crystalline synth patterns of “Year of Silence” were memorable as well. I felt the balance between slow tracks and rapid cuts, like “Alice Practice,” were balanced well.

Throughout the set, Kath seemed subdued and spacey, starring into the audience while the mayhem was brewing. However, his focus tied the whole set together, delivering pulsing beats that brought the music to life. He complemented the irrational Glass with his focused, stern attitude.

Alice Glass isn’t the conventional singer. Even so, the screams and howls she threw into the mic didn’t ostracize herself from the music, but rather complimented it. She also smoked on-stage, and frequently dove into the audience, still singing. The punk and electronic influences came together well, with Kath being the anchor to Glass’ unpredictable antics.