Crystal Castles, ‘Crystal Castles’ – First Listen

Crystal Castles certainly don’t like to make things easy for us. Two years since releasing their self-titled debut LP, the dastardly duo have made their way back from the depths of hell to give us their second album proper entitled… ‘Crystal Castles’!

Regardless of such apparent laziness, the bride of Satan Alice Glass and her surly puppeteer Ethan “If I don’t like you I’m gonna tell you my name is Carlos” Kath have made an impressive follow-up that should come with a public health warning.

Fainting Spells
Here Alice incoherently wails, fighting for air amid a chaos of sirens. A barrage of static synths and pulsating keys hold it together. Dark, brooding and menacing stuff.

Ethan leaves Alice’s vocal relatively untreated among Moloko-style anthemic pop house. Lady Gaga may have copied Róisín Murphy’s look, it seems that now Crystal Castles are helping themselves to her sound, albeit with a somewhat monastical feel about it.

Doe Deer
A return to the screechy punk of their early singles. Here Crystal Castles suddenly sound more like their mates HEALTH than, say, Morcheeba. Proof positive that Alice is at her very best when she is screaming petulantly at her mic, rather than singing dolefully into it.

Think early 90s chart techno played out on a Fisher-Price music box with a vocal provided by Alice that sounds like she recorded her parts in a studio full of helium as she screams forcefully at 100mph “This is your baptism!” Amazing.

Year Of Silence
Reminiscent of The Knife’s Karin Dreijer’s creepy and wonderful vocal, Alice takes exotic weirdness to the next level, underpinned by toxic beats that are as seductive as they are savage.

Twitchy synths and thud-happy beats. This sounds like Aphex Twin if you’re feeling generous. Enigma if you’re not. Vocally reminiscent of Olive, only with a sandpapered vocal provided by Glass.

After an intro that sounds oddly like Faithless, Crystal Castles redeem themselves with a rare sentimentality that seeps into Alice’s forlorn vocal, with sympathetic sythns cushioning the blast of unrelenting beats.

Violent Dreams
A bit spacey this one – no surprise given the title. Not the catchiest track on the album but a welcome respite from the record’s vocal nihilism and its overall entropic feel.

Crystal Castles have obviously had a taste of big venue success and are keen for another bite of the cherry given the pop pomp and splendour of this chart-friendly fodder. Repetitive, maybe. Forgettable, never.

There’s a foreboding serenity about this track. Alice’s vocal echoes in the background, oppressed by a barrage of fuzzed-up guitar riffs that dominate throughout.

Pap Smear
More glitched pop along the lines of ‘Vietnam’, but this time Ethan isn’t making it so easy for the listener as he piles ill-fitting beats, upon discordant synths. Alice’s dulled-down Bjork-esque vocal does well to navigate her way through it.

Not In Love
Alice’s cutesy vocal is given the electronic treatment here. There’s an urgency to the keyboards that crescendos into a wall of sound that wraps around you like a blanket. They may not be in love but this is still a sentimental noise hug nonetheless.

The instrumental number on the album proves the biggest mind fuck of them all. Synths build relentlessly until the whole track pushes through a barrier of white noise before getting back on track with beats so aggressive it’ll leave you so dizzy you’ll feel like a ticking vom-bomb. But in a good way.

I Am Made Of Chalk
The kind of obtrusive track you’d expect from Crystal Castles, with treated vocals that sound like death and apocalyptic sythns decimating your eardrums. Chirpy this ain’t.