Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles (II) (Fiction) 24/05/2010

May 11, 2010 by  

Crystal Castles is back with their difficult second album. Produced in weird locations all over the world, the self-titled album, same as their first album, shows a more mature side from the duo. Alice Glass is still screaming to chaotic electro beats, but this time there is a lot more to the duo.

The opening track, ?Fainting Spells? makes you think producer Ethan Kath has taken their sound to even more extreme levels than on their debut, with a blistering beat and Alice’s chopped up deranged vocals. But he hasn’t. The second song of the album, and the first single, ?Celestia? is a sleek electro pop song, with smooth vocals and a pretty boring melody to be honest – it sounds like a mediocre Ladytron song.

For me these two songs sum up the album pretty well. These two are the extremes, one a chaotic energy boost and the latter a cocktail party electro song. The rest of the album ends up somewhere in between, which is a really good thing actually. No one wants an album full of songs like ?Fainting Spells?, or the slightly more melodic, but still very chaotic, ?Doe Deer?, but I’d take that over an anonymous electro pop album any day of the week.

Unfortunately, some of the songs suffer from being just that – anonymous electro pop songs. Songs like ?Suffocation?, ?Birds? and ?Not In Love? are all pretty uninspiring. They’re all ok, at times catchy and with some nifty hooks here and there, but they all seem like filler tracks compared to the best songs on the album.

The best songs on the album are those which end up in the middle of the scale between the chaotic and the cool. Epic tunes like ?Years of Silence?, where Alice Glass sounds like Karin Dreijer and the distorted bass line turns the song into a nocturnal dance floor favourite. ?Baptism? also ends up in the middle of the scale, with a sound that would get you a nod of approval from most trance music fans, add Alice’s vocals with an eerie echoey tweak and you’ve got Crystal Castles at their best.

All in all this is a pretty good second album. They’ve definitely evolved from their raw 8-bit chiptune sound. Right now they’re probably at 64 bits or something, and I mean that not only metaphorically; ?I Am Made Of Chalk?, the experimental last song of the album actually sounds like it could’ve been the soundtrack to The Water Temple in a Zelda game. Despite that particular song not being the highlight of the album, they’ve still made some great songs, this time with a lot more finesse and attention to details on the production side. I especially like Kath experimenting with Alice’s voice, manipulating it in every way possible, from the auto tuned mumbling on ?Not In Love? to the clean sounding voice on ?Pap Smear?. Some fans will undoubtedly be disappointed by the loss of some of their rawness and energy from their debut, but they can just go listen to Sleigh Bells instead. It’s basically the same, the guy just plays guitar instead of synth.