An album review written by an electro-house blogger on experimental 8-bit electronic music, this is bound to stir up some problems despite how close the two genres are. Let’s just get this out of the way first, I never liked Alice Practice nor did I like any of the tracks that resembled it in Crystal Castles‘ debut album although there were many tracks I did like such as Air War, Vanished, Good Time, Magic Spells and the like. It was the overuse of glitchy 8-bit bleeps and scratchy over-bass beats that despite the fact was or is Crystal Castles’ staple sound just didn’t rub me the right way which to my surprise are the exact sounds Crystal Castles toned down in their once again self-titled sophomore album. They also broadened their music to touch on other genres such as synthpop which really worked in their favor rather than depending solely on their niche of 8-bit sounds like remixes off of an 80′s game soundtracks. The novelty wore off pretty quickly.
The album starts off with two quite opposite sounding songs; first track Fainting Spells seems to leave off from their first album and slowly sheds their old sounds. The vocals are so far in the background that I’d consider this an instrumental track of electric static followed by their first single Celestica, which to me feels like it quickly jumps away from their whole experimental edge into synthpop with Alice Glass in a sea of electronic ambiance sounds. The third track Doe Deer which everyone loves, just like they adore Alice Practice, I hated. At first I thought it was just a bad quality rip of the actual track, but I was mistaken. Fortunately, that is the last of that in this album, the rest is pure gold.
The club friendly tracks which includes Baptism is a great mix of everything Crystal Castles is, a little taste if everything from that 8-bit sound to the low bass beats which I actually really enjoyed. Year of Silence is a similar sounding track with an even deeper bass where Kath looped vocals sampled from Sigur Rós’ song Inní mér syngur vitleysingur which I would’ve never guessed the combination but it’s genius the way it is done. It has to be one of my favorite tracks in the album. In Empathy, they took the industrial route, it is all I heard throughout the track and is just another example of the diversity they put within this album. An almost peaceful track ironically labeled Suffocation is very soothing to the ears. Alice Glass’s voice is distorted to point where it sounds serene. Diving into an 80′s retro feel, the new wave synth sound is quite prominent in Violent Dreams and Vietnam with Kath once again distorting Alice Glass’s voice this time with quite the opposite effect using her voice simply as an instrument. Birds is a pretty raw sounding track sounding almost punk or electro punk if you will. I found Pap Smear interesting not only because of the title and lyrics, but because Alice Glass’s voice isn’t really even distorted in some way other than an echo. That’s strange coming from Crystal Castles, I kind of like it.
Hot and cold, both musically and lyrically Not In Love and Intimate one after the other is an interesting choice they took for track placement. Both reminded me yet again like those two previous tracks like something of a retro feel, it’s all I see. An 80′s romantic action movie with a synth soundtrack, I could not have asked for a better closing to the album. Intimate is quite the rush of electric sounds to the ears, I only have one word to describe this track; intense. I would like to consider I Am Made Of Chalk like the ending credits track of a movie or more appropriately from the sounds of it a game which is the only way I can justify the song to myself for being at the end of this album. The track sounds like it would be in to-be-continued credits too, a sad ending you kind of want to see how the main characters bring everything together in the sequel. That’s exactly the feeling I get from the end of the album.
I am quite happy about their second album, except for the fact that they self-titled it again. Kath once again blew me away with his ability to create unusual and sometimes refreshing erratic electric sounds. They’re exploring different sounds and successfully pulling it off unlike other bands who have failed terribly trying to walk the same path. Becoming less dependent on that lo-fi sound is probably the best thing they could have done, although they didn’t let it die because it is still noticeable in some tracks. This album will get a larger following simply because the tracks are less harsh on the ears. Can’t complain about that.
Crystal Castles – Year of Silence
Crystal Castles – Suffocation