[sic] Magazine

Deerhunter / HEALTH / Crystal Antlers –Camden Koko, 24/08/09

First on stage, Crystal Antlers tonight seem a band of two halves. The Mardi-Gras energy of their bare-chested, second drummer seems at odds within their otherwise druggy garage-rock. In this latter respect, this six-strong collective display as much affinity for the silicon and bleach of their native Long Beach as do fellow, West Coast-outcasts Warlocks.

Taking in both the multi-layered EP and the shattering debut album, lank-haired frontman Johnny Bell yelps compliantly to the proggish drone. The assault of both drummers and all those guitars are initially overwhelming but mask a degree of one dimensionality, most tracks being alike. Nevertheless, the faithful inclusion of slower, A Place To Bury Strangers-like, epic album-closer ‘Several Tongues’ is still an aural treat.

With not a word to the amassing crowd other than a perfunctory introduction, it becomes clear Crystal Antlers modus operandi is not to entertain in the strictest sense of the word, rather to exhaust, batter and terrify.

Fellow Californians HEALTH run with this baton and then some, focusing on what they do best – punk-like deconstruction under the guise of noise terrorism. Taking early nods from thrash, minimal hardcore, and heavy-metal riffing, then art- and new-wave posturing, they round it all off with industrial shoegaze interwoven with great swathes of abrasive Goth and tribal drumming.

HEALTH don’t play their guitars, preferring to torture them. Electrical distortion and guitar FX sounding like a thousand breaking windows soundtrack their skittish wailing and flailing. At regular intervals, a couple of minutes of unintelligible and spiky noise witnesses the passing of two or three ‘tracks’. This alone would prove too much, so with it is with happy constitution that these challenging soundscapes are punctuated with true songs. They are joyous and deliciously dark, something akin to Killing Joke killing My Bloody Valentine, egged on by DFA 1979’s bloodlust. That some members of the audience feel it necessary to watch this spectacle through view finders is head-shakingly galling.

Fascinating, exciting and breathless, their visceral, disjointed, but terminally cool sound, along with hometown Los Angeles’ Club Smell scene prove that a city without a great past has a great future. Watch out for their latest ‘Get Color’ in September.


Atlanta’s Deerhunter take to the stage after a terribly promotional, compère-led intro only to limp into a rather dreary five or ten minutes of unassuming older material. The listless crowd, bar one energetic (and presumably fanatical and drunk) sort, are, as ever, barometer to this plodding. Their indifference clear, Bradford Cox and cohorts quickly turn to happier hunting grounds in the shape of highlights from 2008’s run-away success Microcastle, and 2009’s excellent Rainwater Exchange Cassette EP.

Here, their shoegazing dream-pop builds into a venue-embracing collection of warm and fuzzy Shins-meets-Grandaddy love-in. Still their stumbling opening has a legacy, their usually summery sound totally upstaged first by HEALTH’s still-resounding anarchy, and then their own indifferent, college-rock extensions and aimless prologues. Final-night-of-the-tour indulgences such as crediting each of the band by name are forgivable, but tonight, along with other moments of filler, the show feels fatigued.

Stage fatigue?