Thursday, 26 August 2010

Crystal Castles II - Album review

Crystal Castles II

Crystal Castles have returned with a second album and their uniquely 'messed up' experimental electronica. They typically jump about with boundless energy from shoegaze to chiptune fused with some hypnotic trance and drugged up beats reminiscent of 90's rave.

The diversity of this band put in the mixer has resulted in something more cohesive, more poppy this time, not unsurprisingly for a second album, but only a little, which if you're a fan of their debut is good news.

Alice Glass and Ethan Kath have retained their identity as a band that don't quite sound like anyone, this album has the impressive Alice screech but some surprisingly soft melodic vocals on a few tracks.

It kick starts with 'Fainting Spells', lots of distortion and dark beats and plenty of squeal. 'Celestica' contrasts with its layers and melodic club sound. 'Doe Deer' wakes you up with its high energy, an electro crash and the most trashy on the album. 'Baptism' sounds 90's rave and has a touch of 'Vanished' from the debut album hiding in there.

All good so far and then 'Year of Silence' really stands out with a brilliant sample of Sigur Ros' track 'Inni Mer Syngur Vitleysingur'. This continues in 'Empathy' but with the odd electronic glitch; it wouldn't be Crystal Castles without it.

'Suffocation' is another stand out track and has to be a single, dreamy vocals and poppy if on the darker side. 'Violent Dreams' is chilled out techno and may take a few listens. Patiently wait for it to kick in and try not to be irritated with its unfathomable lyrics. Tracks like this often end up being my favourite a couple of months down the line.

'Vietnam' starts slowly after the last one but then tinkly synths wake you up to another goody on the album. 'Birds' made me want to cut my ears off but then there is always one on an album. On second listen, it was easier but maybe not one for the headphones due to abrasive beep throughout. With the curiously titled 'Pap Smear' there is a return to a sparkly pop synth sound and every now and then some strange noises rudely interrupt, definitely one to ask the band what the idea behind this was

'Not in Love' has a clubby feel with vocals that sound like they were recorded under water or six feet under, it works though. 'Intimate' sounds to me like a late night festival track, brilliance that leads to the finale 'I am made of Chalk' the worst hangover music ever and hopefully not how you feel after listening to the album.

 Crystal Castles have returned with some 'instant' pop, some characteristic screeching, some melodic and atmospheric moodiness, club sounds and festival feel electronica. A great release from them after a few mediocre comebacks from other electro acts this year.

Celestica finally has a video!

The first video released for 'Celestica' is set in a graveyard with, unusually, Alice, more glam than noir for a change, floating about in an 'almost' conventional 'frontwomany' way. No converse trainers, no stage diving and unpredictable dancing, this video almost looks choreographed in its atmospheric, moody and haunting way. It perfectly suits the eerie melody of this more accessible release from them...but don't think they've sold out or gone 'arty' just yet.

Every now and then the video shows glimpses of the duo in the more recognisably hooded up 'festie electro' way we recognise them and begs the question of reality and the haunting point they are maybe trying to make? The pretty graveyard, the oddball children and the deserted gothic building trapping Alice behind bars gives the perfect blur of ghost or reality. It comes across in this video and suits the track so well.

Susan Hill's 'The Woman in Black' is Alice, with the strange children catching glimpses of her in a very Henry James 'The Turn of the Screw' way...maybe that's just me but this video reminded me of the two ghost story classics. A great video for the first release off the album.

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