A Crystal Castles concert — in all of its elusive euphoria — can be described as more of a pulsating excursion than a simple performance. The Canadian project’s discography, spanning a total of four studio albums dating back to 2008, are captivating and experimental forays into electronica, full of songs that are way too cohesive to neatly fit inside the genre but too ambient to be classified as anything else.
Last year’s Amnesty (I) was the band’s first project since the 2014 departure of original vocalist Alice Glass. In her now-infamous Facebook resignation, Glass declared that her exit marked the end of Crystal Castles. As she went onto release solo material the following year, fans were left in complete disarray: If the band was going to resurrect itself without Glass, could Ethan Kath maintain their loyal following?
This past Thursday (September 28) at Royale in Boston, it was clear that Crystal Castles — now with Edith Frances serving as Glass’ replacement — would experience a palpable shift in energy that would only add to the enigmatic nature of the duo. As the pair glided through a setlist of more than 20 songs, they managed to combine both older and newer material in a way that felt exciting and organic. While Kath zeroed in on his keys and synths with intense and very deliberate precision, Frances was serving up punk rock precociousness effortlessly. Her bag of tricks was nothing new but felt almost avant-garde in their execution; she came out lighting up a cigarette, kneeled down, and stared into the crowd with a cold gaze before tossing it aside and starting her night.
An interesting juxtaposition occurred, though, when Frances performed songs originally sung by Glass — her stage persona became more subdued. “Wrath of God,” “Baptism,” “Magic Spells” and even “Crimewave” paled in comparison to the fiery nature of newer tracks “Teach Her How To Hunt,” “Fleece,” and “Concrete.” As Frances flipped her microphone stand upside down to scream into it and threw water (and wine) at the crowd before throwing her body into the audience, her most passionate disposition came when tracks from Amnesty (I) were standing front and center. She gave a commendable rendition of 2010’s “Not in Love” that was originally clad with Robert Smith vocals as the first encore of the night. But their very last song turned out to be “Their Kindness Is Charade” which was ironic: There was nothing insincere about how everyone in attendance warmly received the new Crystal Castles.
Featured Crystal Castles photo by Candace McDuffie; follow her on Instagram @cmcduffie1.