Crystal Antlers @ KCSU, London 30.09.11

The Californian psychedelic garage-noise-rockers appear onstage to… well, not such a hearty welcome, largely owing to the fact that KCSU is remarkably under-populated for a Friday night. Having seen a steadfast rise in popularity since the release of their debut, EP in 2008 as well as Tentacles in 2009, Crystal Antlers are currently touring in support of their second full-length effort, Two-Way Mirror (August, 2011).

Sep 30th, 2011 at KCSU, London / By Francis Newall
Crystal Antlers A quick half-hour, eight-song set (this is a free gig, after all) commences with the fantastic ‘Until The Sun Dies, Pt. 2’; Kevin Stuart’s rococo-esque drumming providing a ferocious backdrop upon which the hugely animated organist ‘Ikey’ Owens (Mars Volta) not only blares out his own style of musical flair (having taken over for this tour only from new band member Cora Foxx), but presents his hugely likeable character by shouting along and swaying in a manner evocative of Stevie Wonder. Entwined in this battle for centre stage are the vocals and prominent presence of Johnny Bell; hoarse, yet powerful, his voice cuts through particularly on two of the three older songs, ‘A Thousand Eyes’ and ‘Andrew’. Until ‘Ikey’ Owens screams for the guitar to be turned up, it is but a buzzing; when the volume is increased however, the wonderfully mustachioed Andrew King manages to subtly plug a couple of gaps with either his fuzzy, high-gain strumming, or his wailing experimental solos.

Stand out tracks ‘Dog Days’ and ‘Fortune Telling’ are highly suggestive of Los Angeles neighbours Best Coast and No Age; this Californian drawl and culture obviously lending itself only naturally to this low-fi, experimental sound emanating from this scene, yet the brash wall of noise on songs such as ‘A Thousand Eyes’ implies a certain level of influence from grunge bands such as Nirvana and Mudhoney. This only helps to authenticate how hard it is to explain the wall of… defined noise of which Crystal Antlers are capable.

The only gripe anyone could have had may have been the shortness of the set, or the choice to leave out crowd-favourites ‘Vexation’ or ‘Arcturus’; however with the sparseness of the KCSU crowd and their reluctance to sing along or offer anything more than an underwhelming clap, Crystal Antlers could hardly be blamed for playing for a minimum length. But what a minimum it was.