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AAA Music | 4 July 2022

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crystal castles - crystal castles | AAA Music

| On 05, Jun 2010

I first heard of Crystal Castles as an impressionable teenager two years ago, they were raved about in every magazine I could get my hands on (I.E = NME) as purveyors of music that was more like aural terrorism than pop music. I was under the impression that they would be a terrifying assault on the senses, the aural equivalent of a riot. As it turns out I was thinking of Atari Teenage Riot and my impression of Crystal Castles, while not necessarily being wrong, wasn’t right either.

They turned out to be something a lot deeper than that, they could write a fetching melody, and write accessible songs, but then bury it under layers of noise and strange vocal effects to give a remarkably skewed effect that was then hyped to high heavens by everyone in the music business. Such as life. This record, their less than imaginatively titled second effort after their self titled debut, is most likely as pop as they are ever going to get. Still, it’s still going to confuse the living hell out of any X factor fan. If that isn’t a reason to love it I don’t know what is…

Fainting Spells kicks the album off on a suitably bizarre note, a four to the flour disco beat weaving in and out of white noise and haunting synths, before doubling in speed and retreating, like some murderous creature afraid of the light, then repeating the whole process again. It’s strange, wrong footing and by no stretch of the word catchy (It’s debateable how musical the whole shebang is) but it’s nothing if it’s not an effective set up for a complex, demanding record.

Celestica follows and serves as the calm before the raging hurricane of first single Doe Deer. Ambient sounding synths drive the first vocal of the album, treated within an inch of its life to sound like some distant echo but still with a strange heart to it. There is a reason why it sounds like it does, not just because the Canadians thought it would sound weird. And then we get the aforementioned Doe Deer. And everything goes apeshit.

Hurtling in on a berserk techno hook distorted into a shadow of its former self, the song has singer Alice Glass unveil her infamous screech for the first time on the record, stinging the ears like lemon juice on a paper cut. The song doesn’t really go anywhere beyond what I’ve mentioned but at a minute and a half it doesn’t outstay its welcome, which is kind of a miracle. The fact that this was ostensibly the single for this album, showing up as a vinyl on record store day, shows the sheer confidence that the Castles have going behind this record.

The breakneck pace of Doe Deer is not heard again on the record, but it does threaten to rear its ugly head on more than one occasion. But for most part the record leans toward a more precise method of unnerving the listener, like any horror film director worth their salt, they know it’s more difficult, and ultimately more rewarding to get under the skin of the consumer, rather than startle them.

In short, this is definitely an impressive record, the creative mind that can take the vocal from the Sigur Ros song ‘Inní mér syngur vitleysingur’ and effectively loop it around a song called Year Of silence deserves some kudos. However it is a very difficult record to love, it seems cold and while not heartless, not a record that a listener can really keep close to theirs.

Track Listing

1. “Fainting Spells”

2. “Celestica

3. “Doe Deer”

4. “Baptism”

5. “Year of Silence”

6. “Empathy”

7. “Suffocation”

8. “Violent Dreams”

9. “Vietnam”

10. “Birds”

11. “Pap Smear”

12. “Not in Love”

13. “Intimate”

14. “I Am Made of Chalk”

Author: Will Howard