Crystal Castles / Kontravoid
Kool Haus, Toronto, ON, November 3
Kontravoid walked onto the red-lit stage amidst a sea of smoke, casting peculiar shadows through his obviously foreboding body language. Cameron Findlay, or Kontravoid, is no stranger to dark electronic music after spending time playing drums for Crystal Castles in the past. As the minimal drum machines began to guide the crowd and the strobe lights fired up, Kontravoid's eerie image became clear. Donning all black and a face-mask, his stage presence was one part Phantom of the Opera and one part Ian Curtis. The imagery and musical style were an ideal match, as the crowd was glowing from the very beginning of the performance.
Heavy mixes of industrial-style percussion and goth influences were matched perfectly with Kontravoid's deliberately monotone vocal delivery. Regardless of being the sole performer, the production came together perfectly, from the lights to the volume. The crowd responded appropriately, keeping energy alive until the very end of Kontravoid's well-paced set.
After a tension-filled break, Crystal Castles took the stage accompanied by a wash of digital feedback and noise that mutated into the opening synth line of their most recent single "Plague." The energy that peaked during the first choruses never quite let up. From the glitchy electronics of their early material to the grandeur of their latest work, the crowd couldn't have enough, as Crystal Castles melted together a healthy mix of electronic danceability and the aggression and attitude of a punk show. This meshing of styles came together stunningly during a mid-set deluge of noise that benefited greatly from improvisation made possible by the mix of live and digital drums.
Crystal Castles are known for music that is abrasive, and their treatment of "Alice Practice" made it clear to any uninitiated that their live show raises the bar. When watching the group, it was impossible not to get lost in the ever-changing visual effects and become captivated by the silhouettes cast by Alice Glass's volatile hair and limbs spawning from the strobe lights surrounding the stage. The performance became an exercise in endurance, as the sensory overload began to push the audience into undiscovered levels of enjoyment. It is safe to say that this sort of audio/video punishment is not one you'd want to miss again.
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