As Still Corners’ frontwoman Tessa Murray unfurls her celestial tones to a backdrop of sepia-tinged projections, the crowd fall under her spell and into a calm murmur. Accompanied by mind-bending soundscapes, whooshes of razzle-dazzle guitar and the tactile whisk of a drum, her angelic vocals seductively channel the shoegaze spirit of Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell.
At times, they dreamily evoke the ethereal sonic splendour of the Cocteau Twins, but the commanding nature of Tessa Murray’s voice sets her apart from Elizabeth Frazer’s obscure cries. Aside from guitarist Leon Dufficy’s vital and frenzied gesticulations, Sub Pop signing Still Corners appear just as they sound – tranquil and motionless – but nevertheless captivating with their sumptuous blend of late Eighties dream-pop refracted through a Spector-esque lens.
Mounting a slow-moving wall of noise, Crystal Stilts’ enigmatic frontman Brad Hargett begins the show with his back to the crowd. Creating an air of intrigue from the offset, there is something quite unfathomable and incongruous about Hargett, who seems to marry the boyish good looks of John Power with the melancholic growl of Ian Curtis. With his Gallagher-esque swagger and Nineties shell suit jacket, he could easily be your archetypal Madchester scallywag were it not for the fact that he was raised in Florida and currently resides in Brooklyn. But Hargett’s hybrid aesthetic seems to work perfectly well, and entertains the packed out crowd at XOYO nonetheless.
Coloured with lighter hues, their latest album ‘In Love With Oblivion’ is less sluggish and plaintive than their previous attempts. It may even suggest a new, cheerier dawning in the age of Crystal Stilts, but tonight’s show suggests otherwise. Primarily churning out tracks from their current EP, the Stilts’ also mourn over earlier tracks ‘Crystal Stilts’ and ‘Departure’. But it’s the unassuming jangle-pop anthem ‘Shake the Shackles’ that fills the room with confidence about the band’s return.
Where similar Brooklyn-based bands have floundered, Crystal Stilts continue to flourish. These latter-day purveyors of C86-tinged garage manage to sound gloomy yet simultaneously life-affirming. And we wouldn’t want it any other way.
Words by April Welsh