Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles

Mike Hughes 24/05/2010

Rating: 4.5/5

In which Alice Glass reveals that she can sing variously like an Ibiza diva, a sliced up screaming thing, and a thousand points in between. All the while, the conjunction of that and Ethan Kath's production feeling like the throbbing vein on the temple of a werewolf with a migraine, all this somehow being a very good thing indeed.

It's got to be so hard to follow up that previous album, also simply called Crystal Castles, the one that consumed afternoons of my life when I was supposed to doing things. I don't quite know where or why Crystal Castles got to suddenly be so essential but somehow they are. Sure there's the cult, the brooding, the isolation, the ploughing so much of their own furrow as to just not see any relevance to what anyone is doing. The confusing thing is that there are moments when they are the thickness of a plastic face mask away from standard electro euro-disco, yet there isn't a standard thing about them.

On this new album, opening track 'Fainting Spells' drops in with industrial noise, from which escapes the strangled yelps of a girl in a torn skirt, somehow and almost impossibly resolving into melody. A trick they share with Sonic Youth, that slow amalgamation and conglomeration of noise into something recognisable, and incidentally a trick they pull in reverse on the last track when it all dissolves again, dispersing into the machine.

It's the second track 'Celestica' that holds the biggest surprise, that being the pretty damn straight and smooth and quite lovely singing. Despite the trade mark clicks and buzzes, as Alice sings "when it's cold outside, hold me, don't hold me", the bass heavy production would fly nicely in some Balearic super-club. Based on this, they really could have a second career standing in for Armand Van Helden.

And moments later on 'Doe Deer', they are sounding at their most primally aggressive again, cut up screaming raising the bar for otherwise excellent thrash punk bands around at the moment

Shift forward to 'Baptism' and pop corn over a bass line that given half a chance will blow holes in that sub you just had installed and take bits of your soul with it when it goes. 'Year Of Silence' samples Sigur Rós - from here it sounds like it was produced in a dark forest somewhere and it's scaring me and making my ears melt.

I'm looking for some balance here, something that's a weak spot and I'm struggling. As a whole this record is less jagged than some of the older tracks, more consistent in it's quality but surprising in its variety, is that a bad thing? Listening again, side by side, all I can say for certain is that I don't know the new ones so well yet. Given the compulsive nature of what they've turned out this time round, that is bound to change anyway.
Just accept that Ethan has captured Alice's voice and bits of both their souls, trapped it in machines and valves and amps, and now the two of them are letting it escape one bit at a time.

I'll let them speak for themselves (quoted from their MySpace). It sums it all up perfectly:

"We are Crystal Castles 

We are 1 boy and 1 girl 

We are named after She-Ra's home 

We play rough"

Release date: Out now