- For a while, I think I thought Crystal Castles were super interesting and relevant or something. And then they got busted for stealing their logo and a picture of Madonna with a black eye and then I got sort of crowd-abused by sweaty bros at their midday Coachella 2009 show. And then Fever Ray came out and fulfilled my need for creepy pitch-shifty girlvox over subterranean techno rumblings and Game Gear melodies. I didn't even have to FF>> over tracks of Alice Glass screaming.
But then their new album leaked and caused a micro blog uproar. Confusingly, the record is called Crystal Castles which is the name of the band and also the name of their 2008 debut and, surprisingly, it's actually super good in a sort of forgettable way. Like maybe they settled down to actually make a record rather than the idea of a record—which for a band that gained notoriety for a signature sound—surely means it'll fail? (See: MGMT.)
OK, so Alice's voice still sounds like it needs some WD-40 on some of the early cuts. But later in the record, she chirps and purrs, too. She's older, I guess. The album opens with "Fainting Spells"—a pointless screamer that bleeds into the ostensible single "Celestica," a downright melodic and vulnerable little confection that seems to be courting a listener who is less likely to forgive peals of feedback and banshee wails. A non-sexist listener who want to hear actual music.
We're back to the abrasive with "Doe Deer," an unpleasant minute-and-a-half trip through Tobacco's toolshed. 'Nuff said. Luckily, the album standout is right around the corner with "Baptism," spiritual successor to "Crimewave," a deep and driving cavern of thump, grind and shine. The central melodic device is an 8-bit earworm that dissolves into analog haze and Glass, screaming as usual. I dunno, picture a Samus Aran in an orbital boss battle against Boys Noize. A 10, basically.
There is a lot to like here but not a lot to blog about. Each of the album's 14 nuggets has a reason to exist and interesting ideas abound. But can Crystal Castles exist as a smart-ish band? I bet dudes will latch onto "Celestica" as well as standout "Pap Smear," and forget all about the more challenging and less easily peggable album material.
You can see intelligent and intentional influences slipping in—Blondie here, Young Marble Giants there—and clearly Ethan Kath has grown as a producer who chooses when to be pretty and when to be chaotic rather than being forced to by gear-literacy limitations. (Sorry bro, didn't mean to ignore you all review.) Maybe Crystal Castles got kinda good, and in so doing, got irrelevant.
01. Fainting Spells
03. Doe Deer
05. Year of Silence
08. Violent Dreams
11. Pap Smear
12. Not in Love
14. I Am Made of Chalk