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Crystal Castles: Distorted Pop

Crystal Castles is a Toronto duo that specializes in a kind of electronic pop that has been distorted to the point that listening to it is sometimes physically painful. That’s exactly the way their fans like it. Alice Glass’s voice — sometimes sweet, sometimes a shrill shout — is often digitally manipulated to make her sound like a machine. Ethan Kath’s primitive synth sounds bounce along in a way that highlights their artificiality. The rhythm is kept by bursts of electronic noise that bear only a passing resemblance to drums. And everything is mixed in a way that accentuates the treble. The result is something like the soundtrack of an old Nintendo game cranked up to speaker-blowing volume levels by a sociopathic DJ.

It’s a fascinating sound, if you can take it. But the most satisfying recording Crystal Castles has made was last year’s single “Not in Love,” with vocals by Robert Smith of the Cure. The song is a cover of a minor ’80s hit by Canadian band Platinum Blonde. Crystal Castles recorded it for their second album, released last spring, with Glass singing and Kath’s keyboards bringing a dark undercurrent to the bouncy ’80s chords. Smith, with that famous ache in his voice, gives the song a new depth — the more he sings “I’m not in love,” the less you believe him. It’s the best thing he has done in years.

Will Crystal Castles pursue this kind of thing in the future, bringing vulnerability and humanity to their otherwise abrasive sound? Perhaps. In the meantime, they have a reputation for putting on a live show that’s even more confrontational than their records.

CRYSTAL CASTLES: House of Blues, Wednesday, March 2, 7 p.m. 619-299-2583. $25.

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Crystal Castles is a Toronto duo that specializes in a kind of electronic pop that has been distorted to the point that listening to it is sometimes physically painful. That’s exactly the way their fans like it. Alice Glass’s voice — sometimes sweet, sometimes a shrill shout — is often digitally manipulated to make her sound like a machine. Ethan Kath’s primitive synth sounds bounce along in a way that highlights their artificiality. The rhythm is kept by bursts of electronic noise that bear only a passing resemblance to drums. And everything is mixed in a way that accentuates the treble. The result is something like the soundtrack of an old Nintendo game cranked up to speaker-blowing volume levels by a sociopathic DJ.

It’s a fascinating sound, if you can take it. But the most satisfying recording Crystal Castles has made was last year’s single “Not in Love,” with vocals by Robert Smith of the Cure. The song is a cover of a minor ’80s hit by Canadian band Platinum Blonde. Crystal Castles recorded it for their second album, released last spring, with Glass singing and Kath’s keyboards bringing a dark undercurrent to the bouncy ’80s chords. Smith, with that famous ache in his voice, gives the song a new depth — the more he sings “I’m not in love,” the less you believe him. It’s the best thing he has done in years.

Will Crystal Castles pursue this kind of thing in the future, bringing vulnerability and humanity to their otherwise abrasive sound? Perhaps. In the meantime, they have a reputation for putting on a live show that’s even more confrontational than their records.

CRYSTAL CASTLES: House of Blues, Wednesday, March 2, 7 p.m. 619-299-2583. $25.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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