Review: Crystal Stilts + A Classic Education – Windmill, Brixton. Feb 13th

Crystal Stilts, The Windmill, Feb 13th 09

Crystal Stilts – Converging In The Quiet

Tonight is Crystal Stilts’ first ever London gig. It’s been sold out for a few weeks now and on the Windmill mailout punters are told there is NO CHANCE of getting a ticket on the night. The buzz around the band has been building since Rough Trade record shop got their debut album ‘Alight of Night’ on import in the second half of 2008. It became their album of the week and around the same time started attracting praise from further afield, Pitchfork calling them ‘moody-sounding fuckers who make fabulous stripped-down garage-pop’. The album gets its official UK release tomorrow, February 16th, through Angular records.

A Classic Education, The Windmill, Feb 13th 09

First though support act A Classic Education are here to get us into gear and their Arcade Fire meets Vampire Weekend style, while a stark contrast to the headliners, helps to do just that. Frontman Jonathan’s voice is quite similar to that of Colin Meloy (Decemberists) and he’s an enigmatic, talented performer. I’ll definitely be looking further into this Bologna based outfit. With the crowd now raring to go the scene is set for Crystal Stilts to make this night theirs.

Anyone who’s heard the reverb heavy ‘Alight Of The Night’ with its dark, brooding songs will knows that Crystal Stilts are a lot about atmosphere. It’s hard to understand Brad Hargett’s echoed vocals even on record so it’s no surprise that I only make out a handful of words this evening. He is very much responsible for that oh so important atmosphere though, there’s a very cool air about him, the way he holds the mic close to his face, his soft American voice as he jokes with some very involved U.S. fans. I’d go so far as to say he has a bit of Jim Morrison about him in his presence.  Brad’s warble augments the sound being set around him in the form of pysch surf rock sounding guitar lines with compulsory reverb, haunting keys (especially during album track ‘Departure’) and simple Joy Division sounding dark disco rhythms. The songs provoke part shoe gaze, part hip shaking and lots of satisfied smiles. From excellent opener ‘The Dazzled’ through to other highlights like ‘Converging In The Quiet’ and ‘Graveyard Orbit’ the band ooze New York cool and there is something about their sound that makes me (a non-smoker for years) crave the days gone ambience of musty, smoke filled venues. The band treat us to a new, unnamed and high paced track and another couple of album numbers before closing with an encore of ‘The City In The Sea’ which someone jokingly labels their ‘Sex In The City’ song. While the show is thoroughly enjoyable it’s a contented, good meal, type of enjoyment rather than the exhilarating, pulse racing, one of Televised Crimewave who occupied the same stage the night previous, but I think that’s just the nature of Crystal Stilts’ cool fuck music. The band play to a sold out Lexington on Monday 16th to celebrate their album release and they’re back in London at Barden’s Boudoir on the 26th which promises to be a perfect venue to catch them in.

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