sat 02/08/2014

CD: Crystal Castles - (III) | New music reviews, news & interviews

CD: Crystal Castles - (III)

Canadian duo's third is their best so far

In the album's cover art Spanish photographer Samuel Aranda pictures the result of a tear gas attack on a Yemeni protest march last year

Crystal Castles are a perverse and, consequently, exciting outfit. The Canadian duo of Ethan Kath and Alice Glass, producer and singer, front it out to their public in the manner of venom-fuelled nihilist industrial punks. At their concerts their music becomes a squall of noisy attack, the band encouraging riotous behaviour and Glass mutating into a snarling dervish. As interviewees they are the height of bored rudeness, especially Glass. It’s as if Crystal Castles wish they were Skinny Puppy or Ministry or someone truly gnarly, yet their lovely, doomy albums are in a whole different league of originality and approachability.

The press release for (III) says that their third album, named after the band just like the other two, was recorded directly onto tape with no computers involved and with “oppression… a theme, in general”. Glass adds, “I didn’t think I could lose faith in humanity any more than I already had” but now feels that the “world is a dystopia”. The result of all this misery is their best album so far, building on two that already set the bar high. The Atari chip-tune sonics have long gone as they paint on a broader, more dramatic canvas. Whatever Glass is singing is often not audible as Kath has treated her vocals until they’ve become another ghost in his machine, flitting through his pulsing electro-scapes, every song laced with sweeping synth sweetness of a profoundly melancholy nature.

With one noisy exception (“Insulin”), every song is a imbued with mournful brilliance, which is saying something when the vocals are occasionally transformed into a gerbil-esque squeak, as on the bass rumbling “Kerosene”, or blatantly car-crashed into a parallel universe version of Euro-trance, as on “Sad Eyes”. Crystal Castles make music that sounds like no-one else, at once cheap-sounding, lo-fi and underground, yet with an off-the-wall beauty that truly has a visionary sweep.

Watch the video for "Plague"

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