Deerhunter — one of Bradford Cox’s many monikers, and the one under which he and four compatriots released the stellar Monomania — is loud. They are very, very loud. They’re also challenging and fierce and strange and not, exactly, despite how much I liked that record, a band I would be drawn to. I don’t love them the way all the people around me in the crowd last night love them; the people around me adore Cox and his ragged band of experimental noisemakers. But his set was hugely compelling, the weirdness part of it, Cox’s skinny frame in a striped shirt almost mime-like with his sampler running behind the opening number and his face covered in shadow. (Both bands last night played in near darkness, and unless the Cradle’s lights were broken, it’s the only thing I objected to yesterday. Turn the fucking lights on, assholes. You are not mysterious. You are just pissing off otherwise engaged and enthusiastic professional photographers who would like to make you look good. God. LIGHTS. PLEASE. THANK YOU. NOW I DON’T HAVE TO PUNCH YOU.)
Loud and weird and genius: it’s apparently what I’m into right now. Deerhunter’s set made Monomania even more genius than it was before.
Brooklyn’s Crystal Stilts were entirely new to me, and I was there to see them on the recommendation of a publicist who I trust implicitly; despite some hefty technical difficulties, their half hour set was absolutely compelling. They played, mostly, in the dark; the vocals were slurried under a wave of feedback and synth loops and distortion; their music is post-punk with a cabaret edge and a Phil Spektor sensibility to it. It’s wall of sound and you have to fight it to find the melody, and it’s intensely compelling and dark and uplifting. It was the sort of set that startles me out of my complacency and my musical comfort zone, and that doesn’t happen very often. (In part because my comfort zone is wide, and in part because I just, ah, don’t go see things outside of my comfort zone.) I am totally, utterly smitten with Crystal Stilts, who just dropped their third studio LP on September 17 — I often leave shows smitten, but I rarely leave shows smitten by a band I have literally never heard before that set.
Crystal Stilts is breaking the mold in their music they’re making — weird, potentially off-putting, carefully crafted, deeply and thoughtfully performed — and in the way they slithered into my heart. Two thumbs up.