Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

"Crystal Castles"

Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles
02 June 2010, 09:31 Written by Erik Thompson

Even though both albums from Crystal Castles are self-titled efforts, there is a world of difference between the two of them. The new record from the Toronto-based duo is a much more focused, studied affair than their first, and while it occasionally churns with the intense sonic tumult of their debut, Alice Glass and Ethan Kath bring an added melodic edge and insistence to their new sound, which steadies these roiling songs while keeping them from disintegrating under the weight of both their own inventiveness and the growing expectations of the attentive music world. The isolated, ‘us against the world’ attitude of the duo is still ever-present, but instead of carving out their own cloistered musical landscape that the listener must work to make hospitable, the new album is at once much more inviting and entrancing, ostensibly welcoming everyone in to their non-stop glitch-pop dance party. And what a tempestuous party it turns out to be.

Opener ‘Fainting Spells’ seems to be a discordant warning signal meant to weed out those who might be made woozy by this jarring level of sound, while garnering the listeners attention straight away. It’s glorious noise, without a doubt, and while it sets a tone of dissonance that a majority of the album fails to replicate, the cage is indeed rattled and the die has clearly been cast. Things settle down considerably on the ethereal ‘Celestica,’ which is far and away the poppiest song the group has ever produced. It still soars, though, on the strength of Glass’ angelic vocals and Kath’s dynamically unbalanced arrangement. But it proves to be a brief calm before the epic squall of ‘Doe Deer,’ which has an explosive, early Yeah Yeah Yeah’s sound to it that I can’t ever seem to turn up loud enough. It’s as intense a minute-and-a-half as your likely to find in modern music, and burns with an unhinged potency that was never born to last any longer.

‘Baptism’ appears to be another tranquil respite from the sonic storm, but once Glass unleashes her riotous vocals the clouds begin to gather and the gale is unleashed again. ‘Year Of Silence’ is an obvious nod to the foreboding majesty of the Knife, but Crystal Castles are coming at it from the other shadowy side of the Atlantic (while boldly sampling Sigur Rós in the process), yet they still arrive at the same dark, sinister realms as their Swedish cohorts. As a listener, I’m helplessly under their spell by this point, so the whirlwinds of ‘Empathy,’ ‘Suffocation’ and ‘Violent Dreams’ effortlessly sweep me up in their tonal tempest, before setting me down in the volatile wasteland of ‘Vietnam,’ where the war is indeed over but the palpable threat of destruction still remains.

‘Birds’ and the intentionally unsettling ‘Pap Smear’ both find Kath twisting the knobs a bit too vigorously while the songs meander a bit, before Glass’ distorted vocals lead the way home on the triumphantly exuberant ‘Not In Love.’ The experimental closers ‘Intimate’ (which ironically is one of the more distant, synthetic songs the band has ever done) and ‘I Am Made Of Chalk’ both hint at the fleeting nature of the moment, with the band acutely aware that the spotlight could indeed fade on them fast. But with songs as challenging and imaginative as these, Crystal Castles can keep releasing annoyingly self-titled records for as long as they want; continually daring their fans to keep up with their blistering melodies and mercurial moods, while leaving our ears ringing long after the party has come to an end.

Share article

Get the Best Fit take on the week in music direct to your inbox every Friday

Read next
Babel Marriage cover


22 Sept 2023
Bakar Halo cover


22 Sept 2023
Doja Cat Scarlet cover

Doja Cat

22 Sept 2023