The Canadian keyboard buzz of Crystal Castles was a tweaked highlight of our CMJ Sideshow early last month. MicroKorgs and jumping up and down? We’re with it! Alice and Claudio return to the metro area this weekend for the latest edition of the Fixed party at Studio B in Greenpoint, where the duo will be supporting the equally blippy Boys Noize producer/DJs. Go check them out, do a dance, see some colors, whatever – you’ll be happy you did. Meanwhile, click “more” to read the Gen F story on CC, ripped straight out of our current issue.
The intimate punk pulse of Crystal Castles
By Will Creeley
Crystal Castles makes electronic music that sounds like dial-up modems making out—a drunk and exuberant boy/girl scrape at 2400 bps. Songs stomp ahead with teenage determination, Alice’s breathless, blushing shrieks bursting Claudio’s TurboGrafx keyboard swells. Their music feels sweaty, but in a good way—like a palm after it lets go of the trackball.
“I found a keyboard in the garbage next to my building,” says Claudio, the group’s defacto producer. “I tried getting it to work, but it wouldn’t. A week before, though, I had found an Atari 5200. So I ripped the soundchip out of that thing and put it in the keyboard, and I started being able to control the sounds.” He gave a dozen or so makeshift beats to Alice, a local Toronto girl he knew only by virtue of a friend’s crush. Months later, when they finally got together in the studio, the keyboard broke, the mic was scratchy, and things were so fucked that the recording (which has since become their signature song), “Alice Practice,” was actually just that: Alice singing for the first time over a beat, testing levels and dealing with busted equipment. Frustrated—or maybe just indifferent—the two stopped talking to each other. Six months passed before Claudio listened to the disc again, and created a MySpace account (the name Crystal Castles was a spur-of-the-moment tribute to She-Ra’s homestead) to upload the songs. Two hundred thousand plays and one year later, labels started calling, forcing Claudio to reconnect with a stunned Alice. “She was like, ‘We were testing the fucking mic! What were you fucking thinking about!’”
Their glitches have found kindred spirits in buzzy “new rave” UK bands like the Klaxons, whose teeth-grinder “Atlantis to Interzone” the Castles recently remixed. Touring with the band overseas, the young Canadians got drunk and got noticed, with opportunities to play everywhere from the venerable BBC to Brighton MP3 blog 20 Jazz Funk Greats. Even with such newfound attention, Claudio and Alice remain a pretty private pair, politely refusing to reveal last names—or, maybe more interestingly, ages. “I’m not old, but I’m not young,” teases Claudio. “I am a decade older than Alice.” He insists they aren’t involved with each other, just partners in an exercise in serendipity. “We weren’t even a band! This is just some shit we put together.”