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Crystal Castles do their best to sound like Crystal Castles on Amnesty (I)

"Amnesty (I)"

Release date: 19 August 2016
Crystal Castles Amnesty I
05 August 2016, 16:38 Written by Ryan Lunn
Let’s face it, the death of Crystal Castles was never going to be pretty. Known for their chaotic sound and abrasive live shows ever since their 2004 inception, the band took their strangely addictive brand of destruction across the world and back numerous times. But, it wouldn’t be long before that very destruction would start to tear them apart from the inside. On 8th October 2014, Glass decided to let the candle burn out by announcing on social media that she was leaving the band.

What followed was a petty back-and-forth assault of accusations and contradictions as to who contributed what to the band - Kath claimed that Glass was often given credit for his lyrics – he says he “didn’t care” - and Glass responded by saying that “manipulative statements” about her contributions were what made her move on in the first place. It was all a nasty aftermath to the downfall and death of one of the most unique musical duos of recent times.

But, just as the dust had finally settled on their grave, it turned out that they had never actually died at all – Kath replaced Glass with a new singer called Edith Frances, and Amnesty (I) comes as the new duo’s first album together still under the band’s original name.

Maybe Kath should have changed the project’s name out of respect for Glass and her contributions to the band, although it’s clear that all respect is now out of the window. It's a shame, because you can tell that Kath misses Glass as much as everyone else does; the lyrics and vocals aren’t the main focus here - they never really have been on a Crystal Castles album - but Frances is very much a like-for-like replacement doing her best drowned-out Glass impersonation throughout.

At times, Amnesty (I) does feel like a band that isn’t Crystal Castles trying their best to sound like Crystal Castles, but that shouldn’t overshadow Frances’ contribution, despite the obvious Glass comparisons – her vocals do tend to sound calmer and more vulnerable than Glass’, allowing Kath’s production to calm down as well. At best, it suggests that Crystal Castles are entering a more mellow and accessible phase in their career, potentially welcoming new fans, and at worst, it suggests that Crystal Castles have lost the bite that made them so exhilarating in the first place.

“Enth”, “Sadist” and “Teach Her How to Hunt” do allude to the brash cigarette-burnt sound of the old Crystal Castles, but with less piercing brutality and more festival-ready head-nodding. Kath’s production is as precise and distinctive throughout as it always has been; Kath is a master of his craft, which makes the Crystal Castles sound a hard one to emulate – Amnesty (I) may not feel like Crystal Castles at times, but you can’t mistake Kath’s production for anyone else.

Therefore, the band’s more cohesive sound does actually benefit Kath’s production to the point where he sounds like a seasoned hip-hop producer rather than a difficult electro-loner. From “Femen” and “Fleece” to “Concrete” and “Ornament”, Amnesty (I) sounds like Clams Casino overdosing on The Money Store-era Death Grips, and it’s easy to imagine more left-field rappers like Danny Brown, Chief Keef or even a wired and erratic Young Thug riding these beats for 16 bars.

There aren’t really any forgettable moments on Amnesty (I), with “Char” and “Kept” running as immediate contenders for the album’s best track. However, it doesn’t feel as exciting or dangerous as their previous albums - it’s still a rewarding listen, despite it being the first post-Glass and, arguably, post-peak Crystal Castles album, but it seems that no matter how good the music here is, nothing can stop Glass’ spectre from haunting the album, as she was such a monumental loss to the band. Kath can try and undermine Glass’ intelligence and influence all he wants, but Amnesty (I) is further unneeded proof of just how smart she really is – she walked away when she did because she knows it’s better to burn out than to fade away.

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