As well as functioning as a pun, the title of Alice Glass’ debut solo album ‘PREY//IV’ is a strong statement. Continuing with the Roman numeral naming-scheme used on the three albums she released with former electroclash band Crystal Castles, it’s a clear middle finger in the direction of her ex-collaborator Ethan Kath, whom she accused of abuse and manipulation (which he denies).
Kath touted their hit ‘Alice Practice’ as having emerged from an accidental recording, arguably positioning Glass as some kind of unwitting muse, but everything she has done since leaving the band feels incredibly intentional. Though its horror-show cover seems fairly tongue-in-cheek, the relative lightness is deceptive. Pain has been made cartoonish here, and deliberately so.
Here vocals often occupy a menacing high register – see the stuttering ‘Pinning Down Limbs’ or the helium-fuelled ‘Love is Violence’, for instance – but Glass creates an intensity in other ways too. On the cavernous ‘Fair Game’, her speaking voice cuts through the industrial beats as she asks in a near-whisper: “Would you like… another pill?” It’s completely chilling.
Yet there’s deep humanity here, too: as deep as her lyrics dig into shadowy darkness, the record’s unrelenting pulse feels like a cathartic release. Many of these songs are couched in layers of rave, industrial dance and even flickers of upbeat and slightly saccharine contemporary pop (albeit twisted and gnarled pop). Often, Glass’ music recalls hyper-pop as she blends genres, drawing on everything to trap and hip-hop beats to ambient electronica. The LA-based artist’s music also has much in common with the early macabre imagery of fellow Canadians Purity Ring, who blended fairytale with body-horror on 2012 debut ‘Shrines’. “I’ll cut your tongue out your mouth,” Glass warns on ‘Suffer and Swallow’, “and wear your fingers.”
An astoundingly honest, and at times brutal, listen, ‘PREY//IV’ still ends on a note of hope. Far softer-sounding than the rest of the record, there’s a gentleness to ‘I Trusted You’. In the opening verse, Glass is mad at herself for wasting something she doesn’t specify – time, perhaps. As the song reaches a close, her words have softer edges. “I trusted you / are you mad that I wasted it?” she asks. “You know I’d rather be wasting this.”
By the time the album’s closer ‘Sorrow Ends’ – less a conventional song, more a sweeping piece of sound art – drifts off into the ether, it feels like the opening of a new door. Barely comprehensible, Glass’ voice whispers beneath its rich waves of synth, just on the brink of resurfacing.
Release date: February 16
Release label: Eating Glass