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Crystal Castles

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Album Review

No matter how much Crystal Castles insist they're named after She-Ra's fortress and not the 1983 arcade favorite, thanks to the Atari sound chips in their keyboards, their music evokes vintage video game soundtracks — albeit ones that have been folded, spindled, and mutilated almost past recognition. On their self-titled debut, Crystal Castles (aka Ethan Kath and Alice Glass) hurl eight-bit bleeps, bloops, and noise as relentlessly as Space Invaders marching down a screen, turning these sounds into sometimes chaotic, sometimes moody synth pop with a jagged edge. Though their low-res synths can't help but sound nostalgic (and song titles like "Air War" and "Reckless" sound like forgotten games), Crystal Castles are fresher, more complex, and much less gimmicky than might be expected, especially for those familiar with only the band's singles. Granted, those singles are still some of Crystal Castles' definitive tracks: the darkly, violently catchy "Alice Practice" pits Glass' serrated but melodic shout-singing against rippling, strafing, and strobing synth onslaughts, and "Crimewave" gives that sound a brooding groove. However, Crystal Castles go wider and deeper on the rest of the album, teetering between order and chaos, noise and melody, and energy and atmosphere in ways that are unpredictable but consistently interesting. Glass is a chameleon, terrifying on one track and kittenish on another. She's a black-eyed, short-circuiting android on "Xxzxcuzx Me," singing of "robotic love" as her voice degrades into pixels almost as soon as she opens her mouth, and a spaced-out valley girl bopping to "Good Time"'s deceptively cheery pulse. Indeed, a remarkable amount of melancholy haunts Crystal Castles, from the eerie keening on the Knife-like opening track, "Untrust Us," to the danceable gloom of "Vanished" and the wistful, almost serene "Magic Spells" — all of which throw freakouts like the claustrophobic electro bump 'n' grind "Love and Caring" into even brasher contrast. By the time Crystal Castles wind down with "Tell Me What to Swallow"'s ethereal cooing and guitars, it's clear that Kath and Glass are already looking for more ways to expand on this familiar-sounding, edgy, innocent, menacing, bold, nuanced, and altogether striking debut.

Customer Reviews

Electro Punx

This album was a real surprise to me. It is so different and mixes electronica with punk with awesome results, with real rawness of bands like The Kills and Yeah Yeah Yeahs with an eletro edge of Robots in Disguise and Daft Punk. Stand out tracks to me are 'Untrust us', Crimewave', ' Courtship Dating' and 'Vanished'. brilliant. this album is a contender of newcomer of the year. Check it out now.

Begins brash, but borders on boring.

Crystal Castles bring (sigh, yet again) a neon, trashy yet nontheless melancholic record to today's retro-electro music scene, combining downtempo minimal house grooves with colourful, acidic synth hooks and their trademark Games-Arcade sound world. Although this, their debut album, is a whole lot of fun to start with, it's not long before a pattern emerges, with that same four-to-the-floor groove appearing so frequently as to eventually begin grinding the nerves. Despite the solid, if not repetitive production work of Ethan Kath, it's Alice Glass' grating, distorted, whining, incomprehensible, cliched vocals that slowly undermine your appreciation of Crystal Castle's work. If it weren't for the more catchy, danceable tracks ('Trash Hologram', 'Alice Practice' and 'Knights', in which Kath cleverly turns the sampled sobs of a woman into the track's main melody), and the somewhat refreshing (yet ultimately unfulfilling) guitar atmospherica of 'Tell Me What To Swallow', I can't see what would stop this duo being labelled as bland and depressing, which they ultimately are.

Catchy, interesting album

There are some really great tracks on display here. Although I don't get the success of Alice Practice, on the whole this is a cool, well-written set of songs, and those who complain about the vocals are basing that mainly on Alice Practice (only a couple of other songs echo that harsh distorted style). Definitely worth buying.


Formed: 2003 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Fusing lo-res electronic noise and pop hooks so effortlessly that it can seem accidental, Crystal Castles began as producer/multi-instrumentalist Ethan Kath's solo project in late 2003. Kath got the moniker from the name of She-Ra's dwelling in the He-Man and Masters of the Universe cartoon series; it's also the name of a 1983 Atari video game, which is oddly appropriate, considering that one component of the band's distinctive sound comes from a keyboard modified with an Atari 5200 sound chip. When...
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Crystal Castles, Crystal Castles
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  • £4.99
  • Genres: Dance, Music, Electronic
  • Released: 28 April 2008

Customer Ratings

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