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FRONT ROW | CRYSTAL CASTLES @ THE ENMORE THEATRE

Despite the release of Crystal Castles’ fourth album last year, and a scattering of festival appearances around the world, it felt surreal walking into the Enmore Theatre for their headline show in 2017. Time hasn’t treated Crystal Castles’ reputation and cult like following well, especially given the explosive split between original members Ethan Kath and Alice Glass.

Billed for the entire tour, and garnering significant response for their own releases and tours, Crooked Colours tackled a crowd that felt woefully undersized. The three piece, however, squashed to the side of the stage around Ethan Kath’s massive set up, offered up the goods anyway. With unreleased material off their upcoming debut album Vera making up the better part of the set, they impressed a largely unfamiliar crowd. Their indie meets ravey electronic style translated remarkably well to the crowd, and whilst slow to ease himself into it, singer guitarist Phillip Slabber became an instantly likable figure once he started shimmying along to the instrumentals in later pieces. If there is one fault to make about the band who impressed with tracks like Come Down and Flow, it was the lack of movement on stage. While the sheer amount of equipment on stage made dancing difficult, it was obvious that the best moments happened when members loosened up. This was a show that will win over fans, and remind fans from the early days why they should be getting invested again.

Crystal Castles without Alice Glass is a weird and almost unappealing thought. She in many ways made the identity of the band. But as replacement singer Edith Frances tackled her material, as well as content from Amnesty featuring her own vocals, it became abundantly clear that it is Ethan Kath who holds the true power of Crystal Castles. Blistering strobes, and frequent absence of light took the focus away from the antics of Francis, and pushed into the experimental, dark dance, material of Crystal Castles. Whether you were in the pockets dancing hard and fast, or watching passively with curiosity (as many were) it was a show that consumed everyone.

 

 

Nearly ten years on, the classic Crystal Castles’ pieces stood as strong as ever, with the Crimewave and Courtship Dating standing proud. It was clear that it wasn’t Alice Glass performing these tracks, and for those who had witnessed her antics in the past, the image of Edith Frances pouring bottles of water over her head had a lesser effect, but the love was still there.  Amnesty showed a side of Crystal Castles that is as close to them being mellow, and it was a fear that it was this sound that would come out in the show, but it really was anything but. As Empathy, Kerosene and Plague came through it was clear that Crystal Castles have a position of relevance after all these years. It’s hard to deny that the best of Crystal Castles seems to have come and gone. Cement was the stand out of the Amnesty material with its blitzing, rave like beat and interspersed vocals.


 

It’s been less than a year since the release of Amnesty and the pair seem to have an established stockpile of new material prepared, the only thing is, none of it featured Francis. These tracks were massive pieces, feeling large even in the gaping space of the only just filled Enmore Theatre but reveal the temporary nature of vocalists. Just as Kath has managed to continue the life of Crystal Castles without Alice Glass, it is easy to see how he is could continue without Edith Frances. While still blocked off by walls of equipment and never looking up, Kath has proved his vitality to the project. It is an interesting realisation, and one that will likely play into future releases from the act. It may feel as if Crystal Castles’ have fallen from their prime, but to discount the potential for a thriving come back would be foolish it seems.

 

Ayden Measham-Pywell

Tallest kid at every gig // Questionable dancer at best // twitter/instagram: ayds_on_toast