Music Features

Crystal Antlers: Live at DiScover, Sheffield

First of all, I’d like to congratulate Drowned in Sound’s DiScover Sheffield night for continuing to bring high quality touring artists to the Steel City. A few years ago I’d have almost certainly had to jump on a train (to Leeds or Manchester) in order to see a hotly-tipped US band like Crystal Antlers at this stage in their career. Now they’re playing on my doorstep, in a 150-200 person venue, nonetheless. Great stuff.

Another of DiScover’s strengths is the quality of its warm-up acts. Tonight’s support is ably provided by Three Trapped Tigers and The Invisible, two of the more interesting new British bands around. Crucially, both complement the headlining Californians well, providing intelligent, unpredictable rock music, with varying amounts of synthesiser thrown in for good measure. Of the two, I find myself enjoying the more relaxed, pop oriented sounds of The Invisible ever so slightly more. Check them out here.

Crystal Antlers eventually hit the stage at around 11pm. There was a time when this didn’t feel particularly late to me – I think it might have been before I started working – but tonight, as I stand a couple of metres away from the band, directly in front of lead singer Jonny Bell, I find myself struggling to stifle to yawn. Welcome to Sheffield, guys.

Fortunately, the band members – percussionist Damian Edwards in particular – are feeling a little more energetic than this ageing reviewer, and the set begins with upcoming album Tentacles’ glorious opening combo of Painless Sleep and Dust.

I’ve been listening to Tentacles a lot recently and I’m really getting into the Crystal Antlers sound. There’s an added intensity in the live setting, as you’d expect, but the songs essentially feature the same elaborate organ arpeggios, cacophonous guitars, and frantic drum rhythms of their recorded counterparts. Along with his half-sung/half-screamed vocals, Jonny Bell’s dexterous bass playing seems to provide the chief source of melody.

One of the highlights of tonight’s set is Andrew, which you can currently download from the Touch and Go website for free. A bluesy, old school rocker with some cracking tempo shifts, it’s also the song on which Jonny Bell is at his best vocally. If anything from Tentacles is going to get played on mainstream radio, it’s likely to be this.

The set concludes with the appropriately titled Parting song for the torn sky and those of us with an early start in the morning filter out of the venue, safe in the knowledge that Crystal Antlers were more than worth staying up late (well, late-ish) for.

Tentacles is released on April 7 through Touch and Go and could be an early contender for debut of the year. Watch out for it.