Sound: Crystal Castles are a Canadian electronic/experimental/dance duo that comprises of chaotic vocalist Alice Glass and multi-tasking Ethan Kath.
On first impressions, without even hearing the band I was told they were going to be the biggest thing of 2008. Never a good start, I was instantly put off listening to them and yet found myself interested in what the hype was all about. Boy was I missing out.
Crystal Castles sound like no other band I can think of currently doing as well as they have. A mash of synth layers with sounds that you'd expect to come from a broken computer or an 80's arcade game along with some massively effect laden and distorted vocals this was a lot to take in on first listen. So I listened again. And then again. There was something far too catchy to not continue listening.
Crystal Castles started out as a project Ethan Kath was working on and then asked Alice Glass to do some vocals for a few tracks. These few tracks were "accidental" put on the net and were known as Alice Practice which later became their debut EP after record companies heard the tracks and offered them a record deal. Since then, Crystal Castles have released a self titled full length album and done countless live shows, most of which are full of utter chaos due to a rather enthusiastic front lady // 8
Lyrics: With this sort of music, do the lyrics actually matter? Hardly, they are at times nearly impossible to make out due to the use of so much processing and effects. The lyrics that you can make out are much like the music, somewhat unusual, unexpected and downright bizarre at times. This is not to say Alice Glass is not a talented singer. Songs like Tell Me What To Swallow reveal a soft and angelic side to the somewhat usual cryptic vocals. Interesting fact about the song Air War, the vocals are in fact a spoken passage from the book Ulysses // 7
Overall Impression: Hard to say if they sound like anything that is currently around. Sure they sound much like an Amiga game at times, and I'm sure there are some unknown bands that have been doing such music for years but Crystal Castles seemed to have broken through. I'd compare them to Boards of Canada, Team Sleep but certainly don't have the relaxed laid back feel the previous mentioned bands have.
Stand out tracks include Crimewave, a somewhat more mellow song but yet has an infectious bass groove and drum beat to match, Air War, again a very catchy song with the latter half of the song appearing in the new Toshiba advert (the one with all the stop start bullet time stuff) and Black Panther that could have easily been taken from a Final Fantasy epic battle scene
All good reviews need a bad point about it and Crystal Castles certainly are not for everyone. Many might find the vocals and unusual synth noises somewhat of a noise pollution and annoyance. Certainly not a band for the faint hearted but would be criminal not to check out some of the above mentioned tracks. Admittedly on first listen I was completely undecided as to weather I was listening to something brilliant or something utterly terrible. This is certainly and album and band that needs some dedicated listening time and the right mood to really enjoy it at it's true potential. // 8