So, Crystal Castles, purveyors of sonic evil and deranged synthesizers, is no more. Over. Kaput. Sayonara. Alice Glass announced her departure on Twitter today (October 8). But what a heady ride it's been. We salute the duo's career in 15 glorious images.
Toronto, 2004. Ethan Kath believes he has found an 'undiscovered poet' in Alice Glass, then 15 and in punk band Fetus Fatale. A demo session is secretly recorded which Kath sticks online unbeknownst to Glass. 'Alice Practice' becomes the band's first release in 2006. Cue internet chaos.
“I like to piss people off,” Alice Glass told NME in 2008. “We want people to feel nauseous.” It was a mission to be accomplished and some over the band's 10 year existence. But their nihilistic electric was also immensely popular: debut album 'Crystal Castles I' drew fans from all over and topped NME's Best Albums Of The Year poll.
Crystal Castles quickly became known for their chaotic live shows, Glass screeching like a hellcat, arms and legs aloft above a screaming, strobe-lit crowd. Watch 'Baptism' at the NME Awards 2011 here.
Recorded in a church in Iceland, a garage in Detroit and a log cabin in Ontario, Crystal Castles second album, 'Crystal Castles II, released on Fiction, veered between contemplation and digital assault. "It makes you want to fight, fuck or flee, to jump on the nearest table and start ape-grimacing and throwing things, possibly your own faeces," wrote Emily Mackay in her NME review.
In December 2010 the band released the third single off the album 'Not In Love', a cover of new wave band Platinum Blonde' song. It featured The Cure's Robert Smith on guest vocals and became the band's highest charting hit.
Crystal Castles took their sensory overload on the road throughout the late 2010s. In 2009, Glass had to be rescued by security after diving into the crowd at Reading. Reading and Leeds shows in 2011 and 2012 were memorable, even though Glass had broken her ankle in 2011 and played against doctor's orders.
By 2012, Ethan’s aim, as he said in February 2008, to “make the most annoying sounds ever for Alice to scream over and then we’ll try to open for Melt-Banana," was redundant. They were playing huge US tours and bludgeoning international venues with their mix of chiptune electro, the super-bleak synth-punk of Suicide and the art-rock style of Pere Ubu.
Deliberately opaque and difficult, Crystal Castles were not a walk in the park for journalists to interview. Although Glass rarely talked to the crowd when playing live, the duo didn't hold back. On topping the NME Cool List in 2008? "My pact with Satan hasn't expired yet"
"I think a lot of kids are more sexualised now than they were now than they were years ago and I'm not sure it's a coincidence," Glass told NME in 2012. "Like fucking Katy Perry spraying people with her fucking dick, her fucking cum gun coming on fucking children. And little girls, like six-year-old girls wearing a shirt with 'I wanna see your [pea] cock' on it."
The band's third album was released in 2012. "The first Crystal Castles album (2008’s ‘Crystal Castles’) was a punkish exhortation to murder on the dancefloor. For ‘(III)’, they’ve remade themselves. Not entirely. But in toning down the shock and awe, they’ve revealed the beating heart at the centre of their work," wrote Louis Pattison in his 9/10 NME review.
The third, and now last, album ushered in a new approach. "Ethan and Alice had found a way to expand their palette without losing their essence, " wrote Louis Pattison, adding "a bigger sound and glossy production values to the mix."
Crystal Castles played their final gigs in 2013, with the last show at José Cuervo Salón in Mexico City, opening with 'Plague' and ending with 'Yes No'. Judging by their social media accounts, both members have been DJing separately at various shindigs in 2014.
So what next for Ethan Kath now Glass has said she can't express herself with "sincerity, honesty, and empathy for others" within Crystal Castles? Bring back Kïll Cheerleadër? Motörhead's Lemmy did consider them, “the greatest rock and roll band since Guns N’ Roses”, after all.
Don't panic: Glass says she'll be back. "Although this is the end of the band, I hope my fans will embrace me as a solo artist in the same way they have embraced Crystal Castles," Glass wrote on Twitter.