Crystal Stilts – Deaf Institute, Manchester – 17th August 2009

Posted on February 10, 2010

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It is instantly obvious when listening to Crystal Stilts that their musical diet is somewhat limited, however, this does not detract from the quality of their sound. Their songs are simple in technical terms, with stripped down drum patterns and uncomplicated chord structures, but their minimalist approach and dark, crooned vocal, together with reverb-heavy guitar tones, makes them sound quite different from most other bands making music today.

The Stilts make melancholic three-minute pop songs with ease and at the Deaf Institute in Manchester they have an inspired audience in the palm of their hands. Hailing from New York, the Crystal Stilts are fronted by Brad Hargett, a moody, monotone crooner with an almost English sounding voice. Hargett says very little on stage leaving the pleasantries to keyboard player Kyle Forester, who, it should be noted, is a thoroughly nice chap. Hargett’s vocals are extraordinarily low in the mix, an unusual tactic, but one that seems to suit the Stilts’ sound. It is difficult to make-out exactly what Hargett is singing about but an ethereal vocal melody shines through and allows the listener to be transported to a gloomy but fascinating place. The drummer, Miss Frankie Rose, has quite obviously drummed along to Mo Tucker drum tracks for the majority of her life but the simplicity of her beats certainly adds to the Stilts’ sound rather than take anything away. Despite this modest approach, the band does not lack energy, and the audience are captivated from start to finish.

It is fair to say that Crystal Stilts are not the most innovative band, but in the world of rock & roll it is difficult to be pioneering because many of the best ideas have been used. Crystal Stilts single-mindedly try to make the kind of music that has inspired them the most and that should be admired. They do a fine job of it and good luck to them. However, for some people, these songs will be boxed-off as Velvet Underground/Joy Division rip-offs that lack any real originality but that would be doing them somewhat of a disservice. Clearly, they are prepared to unashamedly acknowledge their influences, but at the same time they pull it off and will surely go on to make some impressive records.

Photography by Sam Ellis

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Posted in: Music