Crystal Whipped: Crystal Castles and Woodhands at Studio B

Written by Ben Lasman on . Posted in Music, Posts.



I’ve never lost my belt at a show before. One would think the strap of leather looped around my pants would would be difficult to remove under any but the most deliberate circumstances. Sadly, to all those concerned about the inalienable security of their trousers, this is not the case. Crystal Castles took my belt away last night without my consent. When I searched for it on the floor of Studio B at the end of their set, it had evaporated.

Ideally, however, every loss carries with it some form of discovery. For example, that this Toronto duo (plus drummer!), whose glitch-tripped remixes and self-wired bangers never really pressed my panic button despite being called things like “Crimewave”, “Air War” and “1991,” can indeed induce 8-bit electrauma with the touch, excuse me, of a button.

Conceptually, the band is spot on. Get some guy in a hood who never looks up to man a buffet table of hardware while a gorgeous, dead-eyed girl stares the audience down shrieking before jumping on them. With this kind of upfront action, it doesn’t really matter that Crystal Castles essentially have one, big song that never changes tempo or dynamics or rhythm. Likewise for their fantastic light show: strobe blasts cut with blazes of hotwired Vegas ticker. Monotony, in this case, is magic.


Openers Woodhands, also from Toronto, had psyched me up for some sort of metal show, or at least some humanity. Another chiptune band, this act had a keytarist striking Bono poses and belting over the blurt. Pretty tight stuff, and the tunes come in all sorts of flavors. Still, there really isn’t much of a comparison to be made between the perfectly respectable body-moving this horribly-named twosome provides and the absolute batshit bedlam wrought by the headliner. Woodhands’ songwriting variety, their rock-swagger, their very flesh and blood—and I’m being completely serious—seemed positively regressive next to the brutal indifference of Castles’ lunatic CPU. Imagine Kubrick’s 2001, except with HAL winning.

It’s interesting that head siren Alice Glass inspires such adulation fronting the death console of her backing boys. Hundreds of hands reached out to touch her in the course of the performance, as if under the impression that by grazing her arm or thigh the downward spiral into pure circuitry could be postponed. Unsurprisingly, when the group hit the off-switch and disappeared, a fight broke out almost instantly. Some enormous bouncers jumped in the mix and dragged the brawlers outdoors. The analog world had come back strong, and although it was equally violent as the Atari nightmare of the past hour, at least it was familiar in its stench and sweatiness. I’ll be back for my belt.

Photos by Jonny-Leather

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