Two relatively new and definitely up-and-coming bands played Chicago’s Abbey Pub last Wednesday night to a raucous crowd. I was one of the lucky souls to have attended the musical mayhem that ranged from unrelenting noise-rock to poppy house. Los Angeles’ HEALTH worked the crowd first and was followed by the Toronto duo, Crystal Castles. The Abbey could not have been a more perfect setting for these two groups: dark and small, the paced drums and heavy bass dripped off the walls during both sets. It may be the fact that both bands really brought the fire but my only complaint of the night is that I’m still not at the Abbey Pub thrashing my body around to “Alice Practice”. These two groups are definitely headed in the right direction although on somewhat different musical paths. Their connection being the song “Crimewaves”, which is a HEALTH original that Crystal Castles has remixed. How Crystal Castles developed their take on the song from the original is beyond me but I guess that’s why I’m dancing my Wednesday night away to their music and not vice versa.
The band HEALTH is a distinctive take on some of the sounds that came from Liars and Battles the last few years to rave reviews. The noise rock that they play must take incredible patience and foresight. The show started with all band members but the drummer kneeling on the stage tweaking with keyboards or banging on an electric drum. The sound was immediately powerful and possessive. Most of the show went in this same direction: the band picking up and putting down their instruments to try and fit another distorted blast into the fold all the while the drummer placing perfect rhythms to the chaos. I really enjoyed the show they put on and will definitely not hesitate to see this band again. The music was really interesting and inventive.
A quick equipment change and darkening of the Abbey got the Crystal Castles onto the stage in mysterious fashion, something I think they embrace seeing that most photos of the band do not include their faces and that there is myth that the band started on accident. The entire show is shrouded in strobe light and Alice Glass dominates the stage in a very uncontrived fashion; she reminded me of Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on more than one occasion. The Crystal Castles music ranges from New Order pop to video game tinged house music. They are definitely the most innovative electronic act out there right now making a sound that is totally fascinating and at the same time very accessible. They translated the studio sound very well to the stage, which is a must for an electronic act in my opinion. The aforementioned “Crimewaves” was a crowd pleaser and got everyone’s energy up early in the show. The rest of the forty-five minute set was a whirlwind of Atari bleeps and heavy bass with Glass providing the visual entertainment. The show was punctuated by two great songs: the very upbeat “Air War” and the euro-house “Untrust Us”.
The entirely wonderful thing about the Crystal Castles is that they are selling out venues in Canada and the US without having even released an album. That will all change on March 18th when their debut album gets released through Last Gang Records. This disc will make waves much like Justice’s Cross did in 2007. Both Crystal Castles and HEALTH are definitely bands to watch out for this 2008 and I think I may have been lucky to catch them before SXSW where after that everyone will know their names.
A special thanks to Michael Contraveos for all the great pictures, they were not easy to come by with the strobe light going.