RECORD REVIEW: CRYSTAL CASTLES – CRYSTAL CASTLES

RECORD REVIEW: CRYSTAL CASTLES – CRYSTAL CASTLES

Toronto’s Crystal Castles have made huge waves on the indie circuit of late with their massive new LP ‘Crystal Castles II’ due to be released on May 24. Following the avalanche of interest on the web, with their myspace being inundated (50 million plays) you can now purchase the whole thing on iTunes. Multi-instrumentalist Ethan Kath and vocalist Alice Glass have redefined the electro genre, producing something totally unique and at times confronting. The album takes you to some dark places, the opening track Fainting Spells swings between distortion and hyped up synth driven mayhem. Following this is Celestica, on the other end of the spectrum. Purely pop, Alice Glass’ voice gets a chance to stand front and centre with this track and it’s a beautiful thing. Then we are suddenly back in the dark again with the abrasive Doe Deer, a track released as an EP with a limited edition vinyl pressing for last month’s Record Store Day. You never know where you are heading next with this LP, Baptism has an old school ravey quality about it with Glass screaming over the electro sounds and swirling synths. Year Of Silence is more accessible and a highlight of the album, ebbing and flowing with a nice build up and featuring a vocal sample from Sigur Ros.

Crystal Castles have pulled off an amazing feat with their eponymous second album debuting at number one on the dance music charts, with no publicity from the label (Fiction Records). Produced by Kath, they recorded in some unusual locations such as a church in Iceland, a self built cabin in northern Ontario and a garage behind a Detroit convenience store. Further recording was done in London.

According to the BBC, listening to Crystal Castles “is to be cast adrift in a vortex of deafening pain without a safety net. You get the feeling you can do anything in the world, but that ‘anything’ would ultimately mean nothing. Crystal Castles marks a nuanced emotional territory that dance music never covered before”. Seeing them live would be an exhilarating experience, at the 2008 Glastonbury Festival, Glass climbed the rigging and her stage-diving antics caused organisers to curtail their set. This year sees them playing Glastonbury again, festivals in Leeds and Reading, as well as the Exit Festival in Novi Sad, Serbia in July.

With their heavy use of pitch altered vocal snippets, samples, distortions, loops and seemingly impenetrable walls of noise, Crystal Castles have carved out a unique niche that sounds like nothing else.

Dave Roberts – May 15, 2010