Crystal Castles continue their evil approach, but return with a soft & tender album.
Crystal Castles; A band formed in 2006 by Ethan Kath keyboard in hand & a young girl Alice Glass equipped with a powerful voice, decided to show the world their electro ideas. Starting out as a small bedroom project, their music swiftly began to spread across dance-floors, raves & festival arenas. Their early singles, such as ‘Alice Practice’, ‘Courtship Dating’ & ‘Crimewave’, weren’t your every day dance songs, which usually aim to project happiness. Not these guys. The singles & their debut album that followed, aptly named ‘Crystal Castles’ were full of drained sorrow, but was in fact also became hugely popular.
So this release, now their third full length album, reveals that the band is taking a different approach than their previous efforts. Recorded in Warsaw, Poland. Ethan took on the roll of producing the album himself, equipment with brand new shiny synthesizers as well as Alice’s dynamic & growing vocals. (III) does relate to the previous two albums in some ways, it is still clearly Crystal Castles, but the tracks comes across with a more deep & tranquil vibe.
Crystal Castles’ ‘Plague’
The album opener & the first song to be leaked off the album, ‘Plague’ builds with layer upon layer of electronic synths & warped vocals. Before delicately slowing down for Alice to profess, “I need you pure I need you clean” before she unleashes once again with the stomping chorus of “I Am Plague”. Next up is ‘Kerosene’, which uses some previous techniques from their past albums, such as where the vocals are reversed once & then back over again, among with other tricks of theirs, so as to create that beautiful nonsense they are known for. Yet it also coming across with a more sentimental view on things as Alice sings softly & sweet, “I’ll protect you from all the things I’ve seen”. ‘Wrath Of God’ ushers in on pulsating synths, which could have easily come from a more mainstream artist such as the likes of a Calvin Harris. Alice’s vocals take a more strangulated & deeper path as she screams out, “They’ll strip you of your heritage..Heritage”.
Crystal Castles’ ‘Transgender’
Apart from the evil ‘Insulin’, which is from the same class as ‘Doe Deer’ off of their second album (II), as it propels into the listener with a thunderous beat structure & screaming vocals the sound as if they came out of a muffled radio that really belongs in a sick twisted horror movie. On balance though the whole album remains a far softer approach than anything they’ve done previously. The cover of (III) shows a woman holding a wounded boy from Yemen, communicating that although the world is full of evil & all things ugly, there are always moments of beauty to be had.
Both ‘Transgender’ & ‘Violent Youth’ pass through with gentle vocals, showing that the harsh screaming of ‘Alice Practice’ & ‘Baptism’ have virtually been wiped out. ‘Affection’ meanwhile could be a very radio friendly song, just as ‘Celestica’ was from (II), even though there are lyrics like “We drown in pneumonia not rivers and streams”, which may not sound very radio friendly. Yet the way Alice softly sings them, over blurry tones, makes it a perfect combination and masks come of the reality of the words being said. ‘Sad Eyes’ sounds like a truly massive euphoric dance song, that will easily be making the rounds at the Ibiza night clubs come next summer. Album closer, ‘Child I Will Hurt You’, may have a disturbing title, but the song’s twinkling synths & beautiful vocal work make for a fitting end.
As the two previous albums were more full on & in your face. (III) shows Crystal Castles remaking themselves with a subdued approach, without fully letting go of their rough edges, and it’s promising to get this more complete album, where the evil world can be indeed be made beautiful – musically at least.
Written by Andrew Wilkinson
OurVinyl | Contributor